Waitrose & Partners keeps its head above water despite lack of festive promotional activity

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Following today’s release of Waitrose & Partners figures for the 2018 Christmas trading period, Karla Rendle, Senior Retail Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, comments:‘‘While appearing a less then celebratory set of results with near flat l-f-f growth compared to 2017, Waitrose is faring better than its direct competitor Marks & Spencer who this morning reported food l-f-l sales were down 2.2% in the last 13 weeks of 2018. Waitrose’ Christmas sales reached £1,047m over the seven week trading period and it is set to increase profits for the full year. This indicates that Waitrose has performed relatively well in retaining its core affluent shopper base despite prior assumption that it could be sent into negative growth figures as shoppers switched to the discounters and their premium ranges, such as Aldi’s Specially Selected and Exquisite lines.

“Waitrose remained focused on providing quality to loyal customers, with product and service differentiation, and limited promotional activity backed up by good availability and efficient operations. It has also seen its online business grow strongly with the channel’s convenience being a major benefit for shoppers at Christmas. Shunning volume promotions may have held back sales, but has protected its profits. It is imperative that Waitrose maintains its premium credentials while offering good value, especially as the big four will be slashing prices in Q1 2019.

“Focusing rewards and incentives primarily for Waitrose card holders is an effective strategy for retaining and rewarding loyalty. It also promotes identification with the Waitrose brand, something that the retailer is set to build upon in 2019 with environmental and sustainable initiatives l and an increase in vegan products.  With the competition intensifying even more in the grocery sector in 2019, loyalty and brand alliance will be a key factor in driving performance.”