The John Lewis Partnership today (11 September) revealed that discounting initiatives have eaten into first-half profits at Waitrose, as the upmarket supermarket group cut prices in a bid to retain market share in the increasingly difficult trading environment.

Waitrose booked a 5.5% rise in total sales and like-for-like food sales rose 2.5% in the first six months of the year. However, operating profit fell 8.4%, or GBP9.4m (US$16.5m), to GBP102.7m.

John Lewis predicted that conditions will remain challenging for the rest of the year, with ongoing pressures on consumer spending.

The company said it will take steps to challenge price perceptions at Waitrose.

"In difficult trading conditions the Partnership is determined to do the right thing to build our business for the future. We've increased sales where there are opportunities - growing fashion in John Lewis and launching new ranges in Waitrose," said Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.

Overall, John Lewis, which also operates John Lewis department stores, saw pre-tax profit fall 26% to GBP107.3m.