William Morrison, the Bradford-based number 4 supermarket chain with 475 stores nationally, reported sales up 7% to £17.7 billion for the FY ended 29th January 2012. Pre-tax profits were up 9.2% to £947 million and customer numbers were up 400,000 a week as people voted for Morrisons fresh food focussed value offer.

Shopper numbers were up by 1.3% and average spend per visit increased by 0.6%, with sales growth strongest in London and the South East.

During the year, Morrisons opened a total of 37 new properties, including one replacement and three in their new convenience format. 19 of the new stores were previously operated by Netto. They have an average size of 8,000 sq ft and are therefore much smaller than the majority of the Morrisons commercial property estate, which averages 27,100 square feet. Their success under the Morrisons brand and the performance of the new convenience format, confirms that Morrisons can operate effectively in smaller store sizes, where previously they had very few stores below 10,000 sq ft.

Dalton Philips, CEO, said:

"This has been Morrisons best year yet with another good financial performance and growth ahead of the market. Customers were having a tough time but we responded with a new M savers brand for budget conscious shoppers, promotions that customers understood, and industry leading service.

"We know that 2012 will be tough, and we will be working hard to deliver even better value for our customers. At the same time, we have ambitious plans for the long term development of the business, through new supermarkets, convenience stores and the development of our multi-channel capabilities. I am confident that Morrisons will make further progress this year."

Morrisons, unlike rivals, produces much of the food it sells, and has been modernising its core chain as well as diversifying into non-food, e-commerce and convenience stores through trials of the M-Local sub-brand.

The firm raised its dividend by 11% to 10.7 pence a share.

Shares in Morrisons, which have lost 11% of their value over the last three months, closed Wednesday at 283.3 pence, valuing the business at £7.09 billion.