Waitrose is part of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP), along with the eponymous department store business, and accounted for nearly 65% of group sales in the year to 29 January 2022 (FY2021).

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 dipped 0.9% to £7.0bn in FY2021, while total trading sales fell 0.8% to £7.5bn with like-for-like sales up 1%, as the second half of the year was impacted by softened consumer demand compared to the previous years as more normal shopping habits resumed and the hospitality sector recovered. Trading operating profit slipped 10.9% to £1,020m.

Trading through around 330 supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as a number of motorway services, innovating the 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 committed to £55m investment in store refurbishments in the 2022 financial year.

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.  

As well as developing its online operations, which also include specialist websites Waitrose Cellar and Waitrose Kitchen, and gift, pet, floristry and garden offshoots – Waitrose’s investment is targeting multichannel development and the use of data for good customer experience across channels.

Innovation rating: 3

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