Waitrose’s managing director Mark Price blamed the sales fall, its first in seven years, partly on “restructuring costs” as it opened a new dark store distribution centre in Coulsdon and two further national distribution centres, both in Milton Keynes.
However its owner The John Lewis Partnership has had troubles over the half year period, with a pre-tax profit fall of 26% credited to higher pension charges, difficult market conditions, restructuring costs and booking extra holiday pay for staff.
Waitrose’s gross sales for the six months, meanwhile, rose by 1.1% to £3.18bn.
Over recent months, Waitrose, Britain’s sixth largest grocer, has grown its market share to 5.1% while others have lost ground, retaining its staple wealthier middle class consumer base while pulling in new ones.
Speaking on a call following the results announcement this morning (10 September) Price was quick to point out the success of the ‘Pick Your Own’ scheme in attracting new customers to the brand. He credited it for a 7% growth in Waitrose customers and an additional 280,000 transactions.
He told Marketing Week: “There has been very little switching to Aldi and Lidl since we started ‘Pick Your Own’ and we’re seeing major increases in transactions and customers, which is mainly due to stealing customers away from the major supermarkets.”
Pick Your Own offers Waitrose shoppers that are members of its myWaitrose loyalty scheme personalised deals where they can choose which 10 products to get a 20% discount on.
The supermarket claims Pick Your Own has seen “real success” since it launched three months ago with 700,000 customers actively taking part. Waitrose is now expanding the offering to 250 extra products that customers have asked for including nappies.
Over the half year, there was also an 8% increase in the number of active myWaitrose card holders. The myWaitrose scheme now has more than 5 million members, with 70% of sales made using the card.
Price added: “Pick Your Own has struck a chord as people are enjoying choosing their own deals and not relying on what a supplier or retailer chooses. It is rightfully giving Waitrose the image of offering amazing value.
“Additionally, customers now see that we are matching Tesco on branded lines and Sainsbury’s on essential own label lines.”