Waitrose cheekily "thanked" its up-market food rival Marks & Spencer yesterday for an advertising campaign that helped it post its best weekly sales since 2006.
M&S launched ads this month boasting: "Price checked against Waitrose Essentials. Quality checked by M&S", and said it was 2 per cent cheaper on a comparable sample of 1,200 products.
But Waitrose, which disputes the claims, said its sales surged 17.1 per cent in the week to 7 November, driven by the strong performance of its Essentials value range and wine promotions.
Richard Hodgson, Waitrose's commercial director, said that Essentials had been "hugely successful" since its launch in March. "Last week's performance was particularly sparkling," he added. "Maybe we should be thanking the M&S marketing department for highlighting both the quality and value of our Essential Waitrose range in its high-profile advertising campaign."
A M&S spokesman said: "The ads set out to highlight our great value and it's fair to say it has been successful for us." At its interim results on 4 November, Steve Sharp, the executive director of marketing at M&S, said: "There's a tendency for customers to think Waitrose is cheaper. It's simply not true." But Waitrose said its Essentials teabags, penne pasta, sausages, spaghetti and teacakes benefited from being featured in the M&S campaign.
Last weekend, Mark Price, the managing director of Waitrose, said: "We can't understand where they are getting their numbers from. We monitor 800 products, including 200 Essentials products, and this week we are 5 per cent cheaper than M&S."
Recent data show a sharp contrast in sales between the two chains. Over the 26 weeks to 27 September, Waitrose said it delivered like-for-like food sales up 4.1 per cent, while M&S's underlying sales were down 0.3 per cent. According to Nielsen, Waitrose grew its sales by 11.7 per cent, but M&S was up by just 2.8 per cent, over the 12 weeks to 31 October.