Waitrose looks to new stores for sales growth

Waitrose expects annual sales to enjoy double-digit percentage hikes for years to come, despite a tough economic backdrop.

At the annual conference of grocery industry body IGD yesterday, Waitrose managing director Mark Price said the performance would be bolstered by new store openings.

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Price said Waitrose, part of the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership, had ruled out big acquisitions and was focusing instead on opening ten to 15 supermarkets and 30 convenience stores a year.

Conditions for consumers were likely to be tough for the next year or two as the government hikes taxes and cuts spending to rein in its borrowings, Price said. However, he did not expect the British economy to fall back into recession and thought the brunt of consumer cutbacks would be focused on non-food products. Against that backdrop, he anticipated "pretty regular, solid growth" for the grocery industry.

Last week, Waitrose unveiled a 9.4 per cent year-on-year sales rise in the first week of its campaign to price match Tesco on 1,000 branded products. Seymour Pierce analyst Freddie George said it suggested the price-match initiative had not had the same impact as the launch of the chain's "Essentials" range 18 months ago.