BRADFORD supermarket chain Morrisons has posted a strong start to the 2018/19 financial year with a rise in sales in the first quarter.

Like-for-like sales not including fuel were up by 3.6 per cent on the previous year in the 13 weeks to May 6.

With fuel included, like-for-like sales were up by 1.9 per cent, with retail and wholesale sales both growing by 1.8 per cent.

Total sales for the first quarter, excluding fuel, stand at a 3.8 per cent increase, and 2.1 per cent including fuel.

The growth has been boosted by the Gain Lane-based firm opening two new stores in Wales and near Cambridge during the first quarter.

The company has also said its expectations for the year ahead remain unchanged, and is confident of a strong year in 2018/19.

It said it has improved its customer experience and competitiveness. It has started its new ‘Wonky’ brand of low-priced fruit and vegetable which comes in unusual shapes to help minimise waste, and is now able to deal directly with farmers and growers.

It has also started its ‘Savers’ range with almost 300 low-priced products, and has grown its own brand ‘Nutmeg’ clothing line.

A new partnership with convenience store operator McColl’s has boosted the firm’s standing as a wholesaler, providing 25 stores a week with fresh, frozen and ambient products in both brands and the reincarnated Safeway brand.

The wholesale arm is on course for £700 million of annualised sales this year.

David Potts, chief executive at Morrisons, said: “We are pleased to have made a strong start to the year, again becoming more competitive for customers while delivering growth on growth.

“We expect to continue to improve in the year ahead.

“During a busy period of exciting new ranges, new store openings, strong supermarket and wholesale growth, and the peaks and troughs of the seasons, our colleagues once again did an outstanding job for customers.”