SUPERMARKET firm Morrisons has vowed to launch an online shopping arm within two years in a bid to catch up with its we-wise rivals.
The UK’s fourth biggest grocer – which has stores at Waterloo and Meltham – said Morrisons.com would offer grocery and non-food products, but would take time to build from scratch.
Bradford-based Morrisons – the only one of the “Big Four” supermarket chains not to have a significant internet business – said it had invested £32m in a 10% stake of a New York-based online grocer.
The news came as Morrisons posted a 13% rise in underlying pre-tax profits of £869m in the year to January 30.
Morrisons’ growth strategy is focused on expanding its e-commerce business and moving into the convenience store market. It has earmarked £3bn in investment over the next three years.
The supermarket floated the idea of launching its own website last year.
Last month, Morrisons took its first major step to launching an online operation with the acquisition of internet retailer Kiddicare for £70m.
The company said this move, along with the 10% “strategic” stake in American online grocer FreshDirect, would help it launch its own website in the future.
FreshDirect was launched in 2002 and serves 600,000 customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The deal will see Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips join the company’s board.
Morrisons also revealed it would open three convenience stores in July under the name M Local. The shops will be located in the north of England, in neighbourhoods around the M62 motorway.
Matt Piner, senior analyst at Verdict Research, said Morrisons was right to take its time with its online and convenience store offerings.
Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said the strategic update had overshadowed the results, which were largely in line with expectations.
“Sales and profits continue to move in the right direction,” said a spokesman.