Waitrose sees profits fall 17% amid 'exceptionally tough' conditions
Upmarket supermarket Waitrose has seen profits fall 17% as the firm flagged "exceptionally tough" conditions in the British grocery sector.
Pre-tax profit declined to £66.6 million in the year to January, with pension costs associated with parent firm John Lewis contributing to the slide. Sales also dipped from £6 billion to £5.9 billion.
The grocery chain's annual bonus, shared between 58,970 staff, was cut from £87 million to £80 million as a result.
In documents filed at Companies House, Waitrose said it was operating "against a backdrop of exceptionally tough market conditions and continuing food price deflation".
Supermarkets have also been engaged in a bitter price war, sparked by the rise of German discounters Aldi and Lidl, although Waitrose has outperformed the so called big four of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons.
Waitrose faced tough trading over the crucial Christmas period when it posted a 1.4% fall in like-for-like sales excluding fuel over the six weeks to January 2. Over the year, like-for-like sales were down 1.3%.
In April, long-serving Waitrose boss Mark Price stepped down from the supermarket, with retail director Rob Collins replacing him. Mr Collins is continuing the firm's strategy of offering shoppers additional reasons to frequent its supermarkets, opening wine and juice bars, cafes and specialist bakeries.
In March, John Lewis reported pre-tax profits before exceptional items of £305.5 million for the year, down from £342.7 million last year.