Blog: Dean BestThe Waitrose juggernaut rumbles on

Dean Best | 6 January 2011

This week has seen the first wave of UK retailers reporting back to the market on their performance in the run-up to and over Christmas. Figures issued by clothing retailer Next and music and books group HMV made grim reading. There was, however, brighter news from perhaps the surprise package of the downturn - Waitrose.

The grocer yesterday announced plans to open 39 stores this year as its expansion across the UK continues. Traditionally seen as upmarket, Waitrose was earmarked as one UK retailer that would suffer during the recession. On the contrary, through a series of successful initiatives, Waitrose has thrived.

New store openings have boosted Waitrose's market share but, through measures like the launch of the cut-price own-label line Essentials, the retailer has been repositioned as a chain that provides quality at a reasonable price - rather than perhaps pricey destination it once was.

Waitrose's market share stands at just over 4% and the company plans to double that over the next ten years. Store openings like those announced yesterday will be a key part of achieving that target and Waitrose has plenty of opportunity for growth in the UK.

Moreover, its operational strategy continues to pay off; Waitrose's like-for-like sales rose by more than 5% during the 23 days to 23 December.

With the impact of public spending cuts and the rise in VAT sure to dampen consumer sentiment in 2011, competition among UK grocers will intensify. However, the once too-upmarket Waitrose is proving a hit with shoppers and there is few signs that its popularity will wane.


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