Waitrose CEO, James Bailey has admitted that the upmarket retailer has been “behind the market” for the “past nine months” as consumer confidence drops.
In an interview with This is Money, Bailey said: “It’s really hard to make money at the moment,” adding that last year “saw the lowest consumer confidence levels we’ve ever seen.”
However, he said that customers at Waitrose “don’t have to compromise on the standards they expect from us when they are buying out Essentials range and actually the prices are fantastic.”
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Earlier this month, the supermarket giant invested £100 million to lower the prices of over 300 everyday products in a bid to help households save during the cost-of-living crisis.
Almost a third of its 900 product own-brand range, ‘Essential Waitrose’ is set to see price drops of 14% on average.
Waitrose also looks to invest further in expanding its smaller store offerings, as Bailey told This is Money: “We don’t necessarily need more big Waitrose shops. But I think we are going to put the pedal down on our own convenience estate.”
However, in the current financial climate, he added that Waitrose has to “think carefully about where we spend and not take too many risks, as a result of “inflation” and its focus on “the medium-term.”
In comparing Waitrose with Big 4 grocers Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, Bailey said that it will continue to offer fresh food counters, which other supermarkets no longer provide.
In December last year, it was reported that Tesco was set to scrap the remaining butcher and fishmonger counters in 279 stores as customers opt for pre-packed items as a result of rising prices.
Speaking of Waitrose plans to keep these in place, Bailey added: “Soon there will be a moment when, if you love food and care where it comes from, you are running out of places where you can get that. All of which is an opportunity for us.”