UK grocer Morrisons bets on Ant & Dec to revive fortunes

LONDON Fri Jan 4, 2013 5:59am EST

LONDON Jan 4 (Reuters) - Britain's No. 4 grocer, Wm Morrison, forecast by analysts as the worst performing of the major supermarkets at Christmas, is hoping an advertising tie-up with comedy duo Ant & Dec will revive its fortunes.

Recent industry data has shown Morrisons losing market share to big rivals Tesco, Wal-Mart's Asda and J Sainsbury as well as discounters Aldi and Lidl.

In November the 482-store grocer posted a worsening sales decline and parted company with its commercial director, Richard Hodgson, saying it had failed to get its selling points across to consumers.

The Bradford, northern England, based firm said on Friday that Ant & Dec will front a campaign throughout 2013 that will showcase the grocer's traditional skills - over 5,000 trained butchers, bakers and fishmongers - that it claims sets it apart from the rest of Britain's major supermarkets.

Morrisons' deal with broadcaster ITV, FremantleMedia Enterprises, Syco and James Grant Management will see the grocer sponsor ITV's flagship Saturday night shows Britain's Got Talent and Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway as well as an advertising and brand campaign.

On Monday Morrisons will update on trading for the six weeks to Dec. 30.

Analysts are forecasting a fall in sales at stores open over a year, excluding fuel, of about 2 percent - a decline that is likely to make it the sector's laggard of the festive season, though it partly reflects the firm's lack of an online presence and minimal convenience store offer.

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