UK Consumers Worse Off Than 2009: Retail Chain

Shoppers in the UK are in a worse place than during the last recession, the group finance director of one of the country's biggest supermarket chains told CNBC Thursday.

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"We all know that it's very tight out there," Richard Pennycook of Morrisons told CNBC, after the company announced better-than-expected results for the first half of 2011.

"The irony for consumers is that they are feeling it more than they were in 2009, when there actually was a recession, because disposable incomes are down."

More consumers are buying and cooking food from scratch, or trading down from eating out to ready-made meals, he added.

The supermarket group's share price rose in early trade Thursday after it announced an 8 percent rise in first-half profit.

It is investing around £1 billion ($1.6 billion) annually in opening new stores, and has been linked with a bid for smaller British grocery chain Iceland.

Pennycook declined to comment about whether his company would bid for Iceland.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose 2.2 percent, excluding petrol and VAT sales tax, better than analysts' forecast of an increase of about 1.9 percent.

This was a slowdown from the 2.5 percent growth in sales seen in the first quarter.