Heston, Delia, Waitrose: a dream team in hard times

Waitrose sealed an historic double this week, winning The Grocer of the Year award for the second successive year.

Since picking up the title last year, Waitrose has gone from strength to strength.

The judges praised its innovation and said 2010 was the year that many key ideas came to fruition.

Its then fledging marketing pairing of Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal has become a powerful weapon in the battle to bring in new shoppers. Indeed in the run-up to Christmas, the latter's hidden orange pudding attracted the kind of buying frenzy normally reserved for the latest Buzz Lightyear action figure.

Its bumper Christmas also helped the retailer post £5bn of sales in a calendar year for the first time this January. Total sales for the financial year to 29 January were up 9.8% to £4.97bn, with like-for-likes up 4%. Operating profits were up 3% to £274.9m and all against a wider economic climate that most predicted wouldn't suit the upmarket grocer.

Of course it has had to cut its cloth accordingly its pledge to price-match Tesco on 1,000 everyday brands will clearly have hit its margins, but has been vital to retaining and adding to its customer base. At the same time it hasn't been afraid to invest heavily in both expanding its store estate and its revamped online offer.

The net result is growth that far exceeds the big four.

The winners