Waitrose scraps delivery charges.

The upmarket supermarket chain is abolishing the charges, which total £3 between Monday and Wednesday and £5 for the remainder of the week, as it tries to accelerate online growth that is currently running at 60pc.

“We want to ramp up the volumes,” said Mark Price, managing director of Waitrose. “Delivery charges are a real irritation for customers when they’re spending £90 on a shop.”

Britain’s worst recession in more than two decades has heaped pressure on supermarket chains to pitch their pricing strategies correctly as customers tighten their belts.

Waitrose, with 200 branches across the UK, has benefited as people eat out less, according to Mr Price. The chain, which recorded a 6pc jump in sales over Easter compared with last year, said it was winning customers from rivals such as J Sainsbury.

Owned by The John Lewis Partnership, Waitrose is betting that its move will help prise shoppers away from rivals in the online grocery market, which it claims will enjoy sales of £13bn within four years.

The charges will cease from Wednesday although the Waitrose Deliver service will still require a minimum order of £50. Waitrose Entertaining, its service for party food and drink, does not have a minimum order requirement.

The decision to scrap the charges comes in the same week that shoppers at online delivery service Ocado will be able to buy Waitrose food cheaper online than from the supermarket for the first time.

John Lewis Partnership has a stake in Ocado but does not fully own it, so the internet delivery company is able to charge what it likes for Waitrose products.

Mr Price has said there are many promotions that Waitrose runs in store that Ocado does not offer. The free delivery is not being offered by Ocado.

Mr Price said trading in the first three months had been better than expected and he was in the optimists camp regarding the rest of 2009.

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