Last week, John Lewis's chairman Charlie Mayfield, said that food at its Waitrose stores was ‘10% cheaper' than at M&S. Now John Dixon, M&S's director of food, has come back saying that M&S products are the same price or cheaper than Waitrose's. But before this descends into a proper braised steak and burgundy pie fight, is someone telling porkies?
Chances are they aren't, as average prices are open to interpretation. M&S said that it compares its prices on a basket of 546 M&S food products every month. This includes a range of everyday products such as milk, bread and meat, plus popular M&S goodies like ready-made lasagne and chicken tikka masala. Through August, the total cost of this basket was, according to M&S, the same as at Waitrose; of these products, 260 were equivalent to Waitrose's own-label offerings which, compared directly, actually came out 6% more expensive than those at M&S.
As of yet, the argument has yet to reach the scale of a serious public scrap, which would be rare for the two chains. To the rest of us, the details are rather moot - if you're that bothered about the cost of your food, there are plenty of other places where you can get it much cheaper. And that's why everyone's apparently heading to places like Aldi and Lidl, both of which saw sales soar this summer. Meanwhile M&S' market share is falling, and that of Waitrose fairly static.
These stats of course don't tell us anything about how the upmarket stores are faring in their Canary Wharf branches right now. Or whether Lidl is about to move in.
In today's bulletin:
Inflation up, markets down - and Darling passes the buck again
Editor's blog: Fear the wounded bear
M&S spits back in Waitrose food spat
Sainsbury's: open wide and taste the difference
Books special: A Sense of Urgency