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Waitrose hits sales milestone in push to win back middle class

a shopper looking at salad vegetables in a branch of Waitrose - Aaron Chown/PA Wire
a shopper looking at salad vegetables in a branch of Waitrose - Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Sales at Waitrose have grown at the fastest rate in 18 months in a boost for owner John Lewis as it battles to raise money.

The supermarket grew sales by 2.1pc in the four weeks to 19 March, its best performance since September 2021, according to retail data experts Kantar.

It comes as Dame Sharon White, chairman of Waitrose's owner the John Lewis Partnership, is considering selling a chunk of the debt-laden company that would allow it to raise between £1bn and £2bn to reinvest in the business.

The plans have been criticised by its former boss Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, and Mary Portas, the retail consultant and former Downing Street adviser.

Responding to criticism on Linkedin last week, Dame Sharon said: “We’ve always been open to new partnerships with investors or like-minded companies to share in our growth. I will not rest until the partnership is restored to full health.”

Waitrose said in February it would cut prices on hundreds of grocery staples as it battles to win back cash-strapped middle class shoppers.

The supermarket chain said it had invested a record £100m in cheaper items with nearly a quarter of items included in the price cuts being lowered by 20pc.

Despite the rise in sales, Waitrose continued to lose market share, along with Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, as discounters Aldi and Lidl continued to hoover up shoppers amid the cost of living crisis.

Aldi and Lidl grew their share of the market to 9.9pc and 7.4pc from 8.6pc and 6.4pc over the same period last year.

Sales at Aldi and Lidl were up 25pc and 26pc respectively – making Lidl the fastest-growing retailer and setting a new record for Aldi.

The data showed that grocery price inflation has climbed again to reach 17.5pc over the four weeks to 19 March 2023, a new record.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight, said shoppers were increasingly shopping around for a bargain.

He added: “This is a fiercely competitive sector and if people don’t like the prices in one store they will go elsewhere, with consumers visiting three or more of the top 10 retailers in any given month on average.

“The supermarkets are also tackling grocery price inflation, battling it out to demonstrate value and get customers through their doors.”

Households are now facing an £837 increase in their annual shopping bills based on Kantar’s figures.