Change at the top for Waitrose

Mark Price's stepping down as managing director of Waitrose has raised eyebrows in the supermarket sector.

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The resignation of Waitrose's Mark Price has raised eyebrows

A change in senior management at the John Lewis partnership "is rather like the regeneration of Doctor Who", said Conlumino's Neil Saunders a rarity. So Mark Price raised eyebrows this week when he stepped down as Waitrose's managing director after almost a decade at the helm. He also quit his role as deputy chairman of the John Lewis partnership, where he has worked for 33 years. He is applying to become chairman of Channel 4.

What the commentators said

So how did Price do it? For starters, "he never stopped thinking like a customer", said Ben Wright in The Daily Telegraph, often visiting shops and talking to customers. Moreover, he understood Middle England's "conflicting neuroses": it wants to eat ethically, but at the same time it doesn't want to pay too much. He managed a "tightrope-walking act": Waitrose matches Tesco on 8,500 products, thanks to its lower-cost Essentials line, but it also sells more lobster than its rivals.

Waitrose is certainly doing much better than Tesco, Asda, Morrison's or J Sainsbury, noted Kasmira Jefford in City AM. Only the latter posted an uptick in sales in recent weeks, according to new figures from Kantar Worldpanel. And sales growth at the discounters has picked up again. It's going to be a brutal Christmas in the supermarket sector.

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