Waitrose is part of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP), along with the eponymous department store business, and accounted for around 64% of group sales in the year to 28 January 2023 (FY2022).
Waitrose has been headed by executive director James Bailey (a former grocery buying director at Sainsbury’s) from April 2020. The creation of an executive role of the grocery business, which sits on the JLP executive team, is part of an overall plan to bring the two different retailers closer together operationally, while maintaining separate brand identities.
Waitrose’s overall sales fell 3.4% to £6.8bn for FY2022, while total trading sales declined 3% to £7.3bn with like-for-like sales down 3%, impacted by inflationary pressures, product availability issues and rising costs of living causing shoppers to seek more affordable alternatives at discounters and rival supermarkets.
Trading operating profit dropped 12.4% to £894m.
Trading through around 330 supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as a number of motorway services, Waitrose is investing in prices as well as simplifying internal processes and product offer as it seeks to win back consumer spend and protect margins.
The JLP mantra for 2023 is ’cost out, margins up and customer focus’.
Waitrose wants to spend more time with consumers and in-store experience is also a focus, as well as developing technology capabilities to enhance this. With a focus on store optimisation, Waitrose has also been closing stores in recent years and has reportedly committed to significant investment in store refurbishments.
JLP chair Dame Sharon White launched a strategic review of the business in early 2020 in a bid to “reverse our profit decline and return to growth”, which “could take three to five years to show results”.
A five-year strategy for the Partnership, revealed later in the year, includes plans to expand its digital, virtual and delivery capabilities in order to reach more customers around the UK, including through an extension of services. White’s ambition is for the strategy to deliver £400m profit by the five-year point.
White appointed Nish Kankiwala as chief executive of the John Lewis Partnership from 27 March 2023.
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