Waitrose has enjoyed a stonking first half to its financial year, with sales up 10.8% in the 26 weeks to July 29. Mark Price, director of selling and marketing, said: "The key story for us is that we have continued to do exactly what we have always done ­ focus on quality of product and service levels. "Our Price Commitment has also been very helpful in reassuring customers that we aim to be competitive." He said the acquisition of 11 Somerfield stores had provided another boost, but stressed: "We were doing well anyway, with like for likes well ahead of the IGD average." Sales growth should accelerate in the second half as Waitrose benefits fully from the conversion of the Somerfield supermarkets. The reopening of stores in Thatcham and Frimley marks the end of that conversion programme. The food retailer ­ part of the John Lewis Partnership ­ does not provide any more detail about its half-year figures at this stage. But the release of the sales figures coincides with new data from Taylor Nelson Sofres Superpanel showing Waitrose's market share has grown by 0.3% since last July to 1.9%. Analysts believe much of this growth can be attributed to shoppers defecting from Sainsbury, whose market share has slipped by 0.8% to 18% in the past year. {{NEWS }}