Waitrose and John Lewis

600,000 MyWaitrose and My John Lewis loyalty cardholders will receive a combined card.

The lack of partnership - indeed rivalry - between the John Lewis department store and its Waitrose supermarket chain has been the stuff of legend. Now, in an effort to connect the businesses as part of its ‘& Partners’ rebrand, it’s trialling a combined customer loyalty card.

JLP chair Sir Charlie Mayfield confirmed at its annual results this week that 600,000 of its MyWaitrose and My John Lewis loyalty cardholders would receive a combined card with benefits from across the two retailers this month.

There are currently 7m MyWaitrose cardholders and 2.6m My John Lewis cardholders.

Current benefits for MyWaitrose cardholders include access to its Just For You offers scheme, a complimentary hot drink, its Health and Food magazines, and 10% off at its cookery school. My John Lewis shoppers get early access to its clearance sales and complimentary cake at its in-store cafés.

Mayfield said there was a “growing connectedness” between the brands. “We see a great opportunity to link both brands together. We are taking steps in that direction with 600,000 customers receiving a combined card that will work across both brands,” he added. “This is an initial step only and we will be building on it.”

The rivalry between the two partners was at its most fierce when John Lewis boss Andy Street was vying for supremacy with Waitrose MD Mark Price but even today, a number of buying functions have not been centralised, with Waitrose selling its own brand of bed linen, for example, despite its partnership with department store John Lewis.

Read more: Waitrose and John Lewis begin new corporate identity rollout

JLP’s new ad campaign under last week’s rebrand had been received “really well” said Mayfield, adding that he was encouraged by customer feedback so far.

This week JLP reported a 98.8% fall in pre-tax profits before exceptional items to just £1.4m for the six months to 28 July, despite a 2.1% rise in sales to £3.4bn, representing like-for-like sales growth of 2.6%. Mayfield reiterated an earlier forecast that Waitrose was “on track for profit growth for the full year”.

He also set out JLP’s plan to buck the trend of struggling department stores, committing to both the John Lewis Never Knowingly Undersold price promise and a continued focus on product differentiation. “If you’re a business that wants to form deep relationships with customers, having a commitment to offering value and good pricing is a foundation point in that,” he said. “We are very disciplined about costs, but you never win by going into retreat.”

He added that JLP expects Waitrose’s profits grow, and that 24 of the 30 categories undergoing a range reset at the upmarket grocer will have completed the process by the end of 2018. Mayfield also told the Grocer that Waitrose has seen “double-digit sales increases of up to 20%” in the categories it has already reviewed.