There’s no doubting the real star of the supermarket sector lately: John Lewis-owned Waitrose said today that its sales have risen 15.1% during a ‘phenomenally successful’ last six months. That makes the upmarket chain the fastest-growing food retailer in the UK, by some distance – and means that it’s now serving half a million more customers per week than it was a year ago. The success of its Essentials range suggests that it’s done a much better job than M&S of catering to the new austerity trend. And it’s done so without paying its boss £15m…
Reporting yet another bumper week of sales today (up 15.7% on last year), Waitrose MD Mark Price said that the launch of the cheaper Essentials range just after Easter last year ‘really kick-started a tremendous trading period’. Online sales have surged after the introduction of free delivery for WaitroseDeliver (the delivery bit that’s not Ocado – no, we don’t entirely understand what’s going on there either). And it’s also opened a number of extra stores, some of which were snaffled from Somerfield. Price reckons that growth figures like these during a recession are ‘a fantastic achievement… that Partners should be very proud of’. And he’s quite right.
But he’s not finished there. The self-styled ‘Chubby Grocer’, who was tipped as a possible M&S hire at one point, reckons it will be onwards and upwards for Waitrose in 2010. It’s rolling out a new tie-up with high street pharmacy Alliance Boots, not to mention Welcome Break. More convenience-style stores are planned. And if shoppers are feeling a bit more solvent, they’ll be able to splash out its new ‘Menu from Waitrose’ and Duchy Originals lines. ‘We really can claim that Waitrose is the definitive everyday to gourmet food destination,’ Price really claimed.
M&S shareholders disgruntled about Bolland’s £15bn pay deal will be quick to note that Price allegedly takes home about £600,000, plus a rather more modest bonus than the Flying Dutchman is likely to collect. But in truth, the comparison is a bit mischievous, since Bolland’s task is arguably a much trickier one. With Waitrose steaming ahead both in sales and customer esteem – as for that matter is John Lewis itself, which also reported a 15% sales hike this week – Bolland is really going to have to work some magic if M&S is to catch up…
In today's bulletin:
British Airways' latest losses 'only' £50m
Waitrose sales up 15% in the last six months
Another 4,500 companies go bust in Q4
Exclusive MT survey: We're getting a fair deal from our banks, say SMEs
Psychology at Work: Time for some optimism