Morrisons to host Covid vaccine sites

Simon Neville, PA City Editor
·3-min read

Morrisons has revealed its car parks will be used as Covid-19 vaccine centres, with three stores hosting jabs from Monday and a further 47 sites being made available to the Government.

Chief executive David Potts said the assets of the company are “at the disposal of the country”.

“We’ll have three stores operating from Monday 11th January and we have offered up another 47 subject to requirements and availability of the vaccine,” he said.

Mr Potts added that, despite the introduction of new national lockdowns in England and Scotland, the supermarket will not introduce limits on certain products initially.

Morrisons boss David Potts in a store
Morrison’s boss David Potts said sales remain strong (Morrisons/PA)

“We haven’t got limits on things like pasta and flour and all of those things that people seem to stock up on,” he said.

“I think we’ll see how the British people handle the news. Clearly we can turn it on fairly sharpish and it’s really making sure that everyone has stock.”

The first lockdown in March saw supermarket shelves across the country stripped bare and bosses are keen to avoid similar scenes.

He added that the new lockdowns – including the order for vulnerable people to shield – are likely to affect the same 2,500 workers at the supermarket who were forced to shield during the March lockdown.

As a result of extra Covid-related costs, the supermarket will spend £10 million and has seen a fall in takings due to cafe closures and fuel as fewer journeys are made.

But, overall, sales at the grocer soared 9.3% in the past three weeks, which included the key Christmas trading period, compared with the same time a year ago.

Bosses said they also saw an increase in sales in November due to remaining open as an “essential” retailer during the second national lockdown in England.

This was particularly noticeable in Tier 4 areas, under the toughest restrictions, with Mr Potts suggesting a lack of activities was seeing bored customers going on shopping trips instead.

Customers queuing outside a Morrisons supermarket
Morrisons enjoyed strong sales due to its ‘essential’ retailer status (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Morrisons added that customers did their Christmas shopping earlier than usual, with sales of champagne up 64% compared with a year ago, along with 40% jumps in salmon sales – selling 500,000 whole fish – and 14% rises in Free From mince pies.

In the nine weeks to January 3 like-for-like sales were up 8.5% and in the six months to the same date they rose 8.3% compared with a year ago, helped by strong sales online and increases in its wholesale business of 24.4%.

The supermarket also managed to open three new stores during the past six months in Helensburgh in Scotland, Glenfield in Leicestershire, and Dalton Park in County Durham.

Profits are expected to be between £190 million and £210 million once the £230 million business rates payment is made after the supermarket waived its right to claim the tax holiday.

There had been fears that some products might not make it to supermarket shelves due to the Covid-19 border closures in December between the UK and France and subsequently over Brexit fears.

But Mr Potts said products continue to arrive without delays.

He said: “On Brexit, the volume crossing the Channel is obviously low at this time of year, so I think any delay on paperwork and process post 31st December is yet to be felt or visible. So far we’ve not seen any delays.”