Waitrose trade update for week ending 14 December 2013 from retail director Rob Collins:
"As we enter the last full week of Christmas trade, our latest results show festive preparations starting to build in earnest. Total divisional sales last week (excluding fuel) were 3.1% higher than last year, with a noticeable move towards stocking up for the big day. Week on week sales were up 9%.
"We're seeing a significant trend for people searching out food and drink with a 'wow factor' – either showy centrepieces or contemporary takes on classic Christmas food.
"An example of this has been the runaway popularity of our Heston from Waitrose chocolate box. Customers have been snapping up the boxes of 15 chocolates with a twist as a modern party accessory or thank you gift for a host. Sales last week soared 20-fold compared to the week before.
"Similarly we sold four times as many Heston from Waitrose Earl Grey and mandarin stollens as the week before, and nearly three times as many packs of Heston puff pastry mince pies with pine sugar dusting (180% increase).
"Waitrose Entertaining (our online party and entertaining ordering service) is seeing the same trend, with customers searching out something different or special for their Christmas dinner table.
"Our spectacular 'Jubilee rib' of beef – big enough to serve 20 people – is 50% up compared to last year. And our 'ballotine' of turkey, chicken and duck centrepiece is 71% ahead of last year's orders. Our customer research shows 23% of people will try beef for a change this Christmas.
"Waitrose Seriously plummy dessert wine is also proving very popular as an impressive way to finish a festive meal, perfectly matching chocolate praline desserts. Sales are up by 58% compared to last year.
"Another new take on a classic capturing customer imaginations is our Christmas pudding ice cream – sales are up by 24% compared to last year and 142% compared to the previous week, as people start to buy ahead for the big day or to get in to the festive spirit now.
"And a really popular new product this year has been our 'make your own' Christmas crates – a wooden crate filled with straw for people to fill with their own choice of hamper products. Starting at £10, the boxes have been snapped up by customers looking to add a personal touch to their gift."