Waitrose executive director James Bailey has admitted the supermarket’s brand positioning is “long overdue” a refresh.
Speaking during the John Lewis Partnership half year results call today (15 September), he said Waitrose is due to unveil its new positioning in a matter of weeks.
It will not, however, be a “dramatic change” he said, but a move to “be more confident and bold about what we do offer our customers and a bit more challenging and provocative in the market”, he added.
“It’s overdue because I think the Waitrose brand has a lot of assets and attributes and qualities that customers really value but we haven’t maybe in the past been as confident about delivering that message.”
Bailey’s comments come as the retailer saw its sales fall by 5% to £3.6bn over the first six months of the year. However, he added these results aren’t “unexpected” given the “exceptional period” Waitrose experienced in 2021 as a result of Covid.
In terms of coming out of the pandemic, Bailey added that Waitrose “benefitted disproportionally through lockdown as customers consolidated their shops”. This is down to Waitrose being typically a “lower basket supermarket in some capacity” which shifted during the pandemic.
He said the way consumers are spending is now clearly changing as a result of outside factors such as inflation, with its own brand range rising in prominence, for example. The retailer’s own label now reportedly features in seven out of 10 customer baskets.
“Customers have been managing spend in lots of different ways, and that’s the beauty of being a supermarket [as] you can offer all those options,” said Bailey.
“We’ve seen a trend of trading into own brand, and especially into our brilliant Essentials range,” he added on how customers are mitigating their own costs within Waitrose’s “four walls”.
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He said Waitrose is “hopeful” inflationary rises are “running out of steam”, adding that the market acted “relatively rationally” which is something that is “expected to continue”.
Total customer numbers hit 13.4 million in the first half, up 6% year on year. “It’s incredibly important we are still delivering brilliant value for money [as] we always have,” he said.
He added the retailer went “digital first” with its ‘myWaitrose” loyalty offering, through the first half of 2022, which gave the brand “opportunity to channel nearly £50m worth of money off and savings and value to those most loyal customers”.
Despite this investment, he added that it is now working out how to “bring back some of the propositions that our customers love the most”, adding there is “more to come”.