Waitrose in ascendant in Christmas sales battle

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

The Heston From Waitrose Ultimate Chocolate Bar frozen dessert sold particularly well over Christmas
The Heston From Waitrose Ultimate Chocolate Bar frozen dessert sold particularly well over Christmas

Related tags Heston blumenthal

Waitrose’s Heston sub-brand helped boost Christmas sales, claimed the retailer, which was the likely ‘clear winner’ among the supermarkets over the festive period according to one food industry analyst.

A spokeswoman for Waitrose told FoodManufacture.co.uk the brand, which was created in partnership with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, had performed strongly in the two weeks over Christmas.

She added: “The Heston from Waitrose Ultimate Chocolate Bar frozen dessert was a phenomenal success (for the key two-week Christmas period it sold 38% more than the three festive lines we ran last year).”

The entire range embraces products including desserts, sauces and ready meals.

The upmarket retailer’s online sales business, waitrose.com, also delivered significant seasonal growth, with the retailer planning to open a new online fulfilment centre at Coulsdon, south London, in March.

Neil Saunders, md of analyst Conlumino, said: “In the battleground that is the grocery market, Waitrose has emerged as a clear winner over the festive period.”


“On a like-for-like basis, we calculate growth across the industry to have been in negative territory. Against such a backdrop Waitrose’s numbers are impressive, although they continue a long run trend of outperformance.”

Clive Black, director and head of research at Shore Capital, said Waitrose had delivered “strong growth to our mind”​ in the five weeks to January 3.

“We believe that Waitrose’s performance will stand up very well against the superstore groups and will probably exceed the sales momentum of Marks & Spencer too ... All credit should go to Waitrose for cranking out such a robust performance to our opinion.”

Waitrose reported like-for-like sales growth of 2.8% across the five weeks to January 3, posting total sales, excluding fuel, of £728M.

Long-term view

Md Mark Price said: “As a business owned by the people who work here, we can take the long-term view and our Christmas results show the effectiveness of our strategy of investing in good value, in making our shops attractive destinations and in building our online business.”

Commenting on overall Christmas trading among the top supermarkets in a separate analyst note, Black said he expected like-for-like sales to have fallen at Sainsbury and Tesco.

He anticipated Asda’s sales over the period to have been flat, while Morrisons could emerge favourably as a result of weak comparative performance last Christmas. He predicted Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl would all report positive like-for-like results.

Huge growth

Online sales delivered huge growth, up 26.3% compared to the equivalent period last year, with wines, flowers and hampers showing a 39% increase.

Waitrose’s new south London dot com depot would employ 450 people by January 2016, it said, with double the capacity of its Acton online fulfilment centre.

It plans to close the Acton site as a result. The 410 workers there are being offered the chance to switch to the new site, so it is unclear whether there will be a consequent net gain or loss of jobs.

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