Waitrose boss Mark Price has thrown down the gauntlet to Marks & Spencer, vowing to overtake Sir Stuart Rose’s food business in terms of sales this year.

Price told Retail Week: “In the TNS figures we are already bigger by volume but by adding 12 per cent extra space this year, we will take over in sales terms.”

Waitrose, which revealed sales in the week to February 7 grew 3.6 per cent, has secured four former Woolworths stores and is poised to grow organically. Alongside full-sized supermarkets, it wants to add further market town formats and convenience stores.

Pali International analyst Nick Bubb said Waitrose is poised to outdo M&S’s£4bn food business. He said: “Waitrose has a broad customer base and for that reason it is in a better position than M&S. Shoppers don’t really think of M&S as somewhere to go for a full shop; it is still seen as a treat and therefore discretionary.”

Price added that Waitrose will continue to invest in pricing
and promotions. “Anything on promotion is flying off the shelves at the moment,” he said. The retailer has 700 special offers at the moment, versus 400 at the same time last year.

He added that Waitrose has “never been more competitive with Sainsbury’s”. “We are on average just 3 per cent more expensive on 12,000 lines at the moment,” he said.

Price said the grocer is offering shoppers options so they don’t need to trade out of Waitrose. “Those retailers who are price-led will obviously have an advantage in this climate, and those, like Waitrose, who are quality-led just need to be better than ever,” he said.

Bubb added: “Waitrose needs a long-term investment on price as it is deemed expensive.

It’s not easy to promote value when you’re a premium brand and that is something Waitrose needs to work hard at, but it seems to be doing that.”