Waitrose online sales leap 54%

Waitrose’s total online grocery sales increased by 54% in the six months to 31 July. The Waitrose Deliver service, where shoppers can order online and collect in store, is also growing and is now in 133 branches.

Gross sales increased by 11.3% to £2.42bn in the period with food only like-for-like sales up 3.9%, excluding petrol. Waitrose said growth accelerated through the half, with like-for-like sales up 3.3% in the first quarter and 4.5% in the second. Operating profit increased by 6.2% to £127.8m. Underlying operating profit increased by £4m, to £132.6m.

Waitrose stepped up its marketing initiatives in the first six months of the year with the launch of its campaign featuring Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal in March. According to the retailer, it attracted 370,000 more customer transactions in the first eight weeks with customers putting additional items in their trolleys and spending more per transaction.

Waitrose continues to expand its estate. Nine stores were opened in the first six months of the year, including three convenience stores.

A further 15 stores are planned for the second half, including eight convenience stores. A further five stores are set to open in the Channel Islands in spring 2011, subject to regulatory approval.

During the period Waitrose opened seven outlets in Welcome Break service stations, taking the total to 12. Waitrose said these stores are performing ahead of expectations. A trial with Boots is also reported to be encouraging results at an early stage. Eleven Boots stores are offering Waitrose food for now and another three where customers can buy Waitrose food for later. Meanwhile, seven Waitrose shops currently offer Boots health and toiletries ranges.

Waitrose said its  ‘everyday to gourmet’ positioning made it accessible and attractive to a broader range of customers. The essential Waitrose range gives customers a clear entry price point and now accounts for 17% of sales, it said.

The recently relaunched Duchy Originals from Waitrose range is now in branches with over 150 products available and a total of 200 before the end of the year. It joins Seriously (indulgent desserts) and Menu From (restaurant-quality ready meals) to create a top tier offer.

In July Waitrose announced plans to open a Cookery School above its Finchley Road store in North London. Due to open next month, the school will include a theatre, teaching area, dining area, bar and kitchen and offer a range of cookery classes.