Waitrose has been given a slight boost after the retailer reported a 3.4 per cent increase in annual like-for-like sales.
It comes as the supermarket's parent company, The John Lewis Partnership, saw a pre-tax profit hike of 15.8 per cent allowing it to hand staff an unexpected bumper bonus of 17 per cent of their salary. The group noted that Waitrose's operating profit had jumped by £31.7 million over the past year, representing a 12.2 per cent rise, helped in part by a 6.7 per cent increase in gross sales which topped £5.76 billion. It is welcome news for the retailer during a tough financial climate that has claimed a number of big victims.
Officials at The John Lewis Partnership explained that it has been a positive year for the supermarket. Waitrose opened 19 new branches in the past 12 months, culminating in 11 larger outlets and eight convenience shops. Selling space had also grown by 5.2 per cent while online sales had soared by 49 per cent. The improvement of the latter has shown that Waitrose has reacted to the changing preferences of customers, which other major retailers such as HMV had not recognised until it was too late.
The supermarket was also able to roll out 4,700 new and improved products during the past financial year. Waitrose's strong performance has added to the overall impressive display from the John Lewis Partnership over the last 12 months. The organisation has managed to create 3,800 new jobs and added £125 million as a one-off additional cash contribution in January 2013 to final salary pension schemes.
Charlie Mayfield, chairman of John Lewis Partnership, said: "We were encouraged by the acceleration in the rate of sales growth during the year, particularly in the final quarter. Although the market remains challenging, the Partnership has adapted quickly and successfully and we saw the benefits this year. We have stepped up innovation in new products, there's been a continuing focus on value and sustained and rapid growth online."