Waitrose sales growth was held back in the week ending February 28 by food price deflation and tough comparatives.

John Lewis weekly sales to February 28

Sales at the grocer excluding petrol edged up 0.3% year-on-year because despite having positive volumes, falling food prices are having a “drag effect” on its sales growth.

The issue was highlighted by the falling prices of essential. Onions are now 80p a bag now compared with £1.25 last year, while butter is 95p a pack versus £1.32 a year ago.

Deflating food prices were offset by strong sales of cleaning products following Waitrose’s ‘spring clean’ campaign. Sales of sprays were up 62%, while own-brand super absorbent cloths recorded a sales increase of 163% year-on-year.

Horticulture sales also grew 9% on last year as customers prepared for warmer weather.

Respectable John Lewis sales

Meanwhile, sister retailer John Lewis reported a “very respectable” year-on-year sales increase of 7.6% during the same week.

Online trade was up 27% due to “excellent traffic to the website and good conversion rates”, which John Lewis attributed to price matching activity.

Fashion recorded a particularly solid week, up 14% as early signs of spring triggered growth across all categories.

Womenswear posted the best increase at 20% and was driven by strong sales of branded womenswear.

Electricals had a tougher week but still managed to keep sales just ahead of last year, up 0.4%.

Shoppers turning their minds to spring cleaning meant vacuum cleaners were in demand, which helped small electrical to 17% growth.