Waitrose sales fall as shoppers quit for rivals Sainsbury’s and M&S


Waitrose suffers a nightmare before Christmas as shoppers quit for rivals Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer

Waitrose is facing a Christmas nightmare as it haemorrhages shoppers to rival supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer.

The John Lewis-owned chain saw sales fall 1.9 per cent to £1.4billion in the three months to October 30, according to market research group Kantar.

Sales have been falling for almost a year and a half – taking Waitrose’s share of the UK grocery market down to just 4.7 per cent. It was 5.1 per cent a year ago.

Waitrose saw sales fall 1.9% to £1.4bn in the three months to October 30, according to market research group Kantar

Waitrose was one of just two grocers to suffer a drop in sales for the quarter. The other was Morrisons, which has struggled since its disastrous private equity takeover last year.

Morrisons, knocked out of its long-held spot as the UK’s fourth biggest grocer in September, saw sales tumble 4.6 per cent to £2.7billion in the three months to the end of October.

Other big grocers – Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda – managed to grow sales over the quarter despite an onslaught from Aldi and Lidl.

The German discounters have picked up millions of customers looking to cut the cost of a weekly shop amid a squeeze on living standards.

Tesco sales rose 3.1 per cent to £8.2billion, Sainsbury’s sales were up 3.3 per cent to £4.5billion and Asda sales jumped 5.3 per cent to £4.3billion.

Aldi was the quickest growing grocer over the period, with sales jumping 22.7 per cent to £2.8billion, so it now accounts for 9.2 per cent of the UK grocery market. And Lidl sales were up 21.5 per cent at £2.2billion, giving it a 7.2 per cent slice of the market.

Kantar’s Fraser McKevitt said: ‘With economic forecasters warning of a potential recession, it’s worth reflecting on how much the grocery landscape has changed since the 2008 financial crash.

‘We have seen a rise in the market share of the discounters Aldi and Lidl, which together now stands at 16.4 per cent, versus 4.4 per cent 14 years ago.’

Shore Capital retail analyst Clive Black said Waitrose’s falling sales are ‘especially worrying’ at this time of year. 

He said: ‘Ahead of Christmas you think Waitrose fits into a groove of people wanting to treat themselves and buy something special.’

And Black pointed out that sales fell even as food prices were rising at a rate of 14.7 per cent, meaning Waitrose saw a huge drop in overall demand.

Black said it looks like M&S and Sainsbury’s are ‘eating Waitrose’s lunch’.

And he pointed to ‘operational challenges’ at Waitrose, that have left shelves empty.

The Sunday Times reported Waitrose has been blighted by product shortages since the bungled introduction of a stock management system. Its enterprise resource planning system corrupted its data.

But Waitrose boss James Bailey hit back yesterday, telling the Mail: ‘We are no better or worse than the competition. Would we like it to be better? Yes, of course we would.

‘But everything I have seen says we have roughly the same availability as everyone else.’

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