In spite of rising food prices and curbed consumer spending, upmarket grocer Waitrose has managed to post positive trading figures throughout the first half of its financial year.
According to results published today, the supermarket arm of the John Lewis Partnership recorded a sales increase of 10.2 per cent year-on-year for the week ending July 30th, pushing the sales growth for the first 26 weeks of the year to 8.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2010.
Trading for John Lewis, the department store side of the partnership, stuttered slightly last week to a improvement of just 1.2 per cent year-on-year but in a challenging market for homewares and electricals half-year growth of 2.6 per cent will certainly be seen as positive by the group.
Waitrose’s performance compares well against the major supermarkets which have a larger mix of non-food products, and in the latest data from analyst Kantar Worldpanel it gained market share on its rivals by 0.2 per cent.
All segments of the Waitrose product line have seen near ten per cent growth in trade in the year-to-date but meat, fish, frozen & dairy items saw the biggest rise in sales last week, up 12.2 per cent.
Rupert Thomas, Marketing Director for the supermarket chain, said: “As Waitrose starts its second half of the financial year, sales last week were 10.2 per cent higher compared to the same week a year ago. In the first week of school holidays, many branches traded ahead of levels expected during the summer break.
“Meat sales rose by 14.7 per cent, with many shoppers relighting their barbecues last week. Sales of pork increased by more than 20 per cent, sausages by 10.2 per cent and chops and steak by 27 per cent.
“Warmer temperatures tempted shoppers to eat more seafood, with oysters selling particularly well, increasing in sales by 134 per cent. Similarly, shellfish increased by 16 per cent, and seafood sticks by 50 per cent.”
Online sales from Waitrose jumped 18.2 per cent year-on-year last week and at the other side of the partnership Johnlewis.com also had a strong seven days with trading up 33.6 per cent.
Most John Lewis stores nationwide saw sales decline over the week however, and the retailer’s reliance on new openings and a handful of top performers is proved by only three outlets out of the 29 in its portfolio older than 12 months, Oxford Street, Peter Jones and Cambridge, recording year-on-year sales rises for the first 26 weeks of 2011.
Despite this the business does seem fairly resilient to the current market conditions and to improve on the first half performance of last year, which was very strong for the group, will give the partnership’s management confidence.
Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis, commented: “In challenging trading conditions, we can be well pleased with the half year’s sales finishing 2.6 per cent ahead of a strong first half in 2010. We believe we have outperformed competitors across Electrical, Home, and Fashion, and most definitely in online.
“So we go into the all-important second half in very good shape. More new products have arrived earlier than last year, the marketing ideas are fresh, and our supply chain is in robust form ahead of its peak.
“What’s more, our June and July results have been relatively strong, and should provide just the momentum and confidence we need to outperform our competitors when it matters most. That’s the mission for the coming months.”