Hot Topic: Waitrose has shifted from high-low pricing to something more knowing

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It’s 70 years since John Lewis introduced its promise to be ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’. What a brilliant price promise that was. And, as we’ve seen, it’s inspired several recent imitators in the grocery trade, starting with Asda’s Price Guarantee, followed by Sainsbury’s Brand Match.

The dilemma for Waitrose was how to respond. It’s always been a conundrum. Though John Lewis acquired Waitrose five years before it created its famous price guarantee, it never extended the promise to Waitrose. Which was a good thing because it would have been unsustainable.

But with Waitrose extending its Tesco-matching price guarantee to 7,000 branded items this week, it not only heaps more pressure on Tesco and Ocado, it feels, like a plausible answer to the conundrum.

It’s not flawless, of course. Shoppers can figure out for themselves that it will make up for the shortfall by charging extra for its own-label lines. And it doesn’t include promotions, which account for a good proportion of a Tesco shopper’s basket. But it’s knowing. And clever.

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