Waitrose has become the first UK supermarket to abolish delivery charges for online shopping.

From tomorrow (15 April), WaitroseDeliver and WaitroseEntertaining will deliver foods free of charge.

Announcing the move, Waitrose said that it hoped to extend its appeal and improve its competative price positioning without compromising on quality.

The upmarket supermarket has found itself struggling in the face of dwindling consumer confidence as economic conditions worsen.

With price becoming a more prominent consumption driver, Waitrose has launched a number of initiatives – including an own-label “essential Waitrose” range – which it hopes will broaden its appeal.

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“We are committed to quality food, great customer service and long-term competitive pricing. Every week we check around 12,000 everyday items to ensure our prices are within 3% of our nearest rivals. Our free delivery service, combined with the recent launch of Waitrose essentials means we’ve never been more competitive,” Waitrose managing director Mark Price said.

Waitrose said that WaitroseDeliver grew at around 80% in 2008 and is currently growing at over 60% year-on-year. The company added that Easter sales were 6% ahead of forecasts.

Online grocery shopping is the fastest growing segment of the internet retail sector and is expected to grow to 10% of the overall grocery market over the next four years, with sales expected to reach GBP13bn (US$19.38bn).

The move is expected to increase competition in the online grocery sector.

“We appreciate this may be an expensive move for others to follow but it will reduce customers’ internet grocery bills by around 5 to 10%,” Price said.