Covid-19: Tesco increases weekly delivery slots to 780,000

The UK’s largest retailer, Tesco, has increased its home delivery and click & collect capacity to circa 780,000 a week, supported by more manpower and the operational changes it has made in response to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis.

This figure stood at 660,000 two weeks ago, and Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said the grocer has plans to increase online order capacity by another 100,000 in the coming weeks.

Lewis also revealed stores with an online grocery operation will now open their doors a little later – from 8am – to help Tesco pick more orders.

“The government has asked our industry to help people that they have identified as particularly vulnerable and who don’t have their own support network,” Lewis explained.

“We will prioritise orders for these people and we will be in touch with them by email, as we receive the list from the government.”

Tesco’s policy around prioritising online delivery for the vulnerable and elderly, matches that of Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, and other supermarket chains – which are rising to the challenge of serving the nation in unique circumstances.

There have, of course, been several challenges – with the hike in demand causing logjams and long lead times online for many customers. In normal times, online represents around 10% of UK grocery sales, but the pandemic has created unprecedented pressure on its infrastructure.

“We want to help as many people as possible who truly need our delivery service, and so we have deliberately not restricted new online customers,” Lewis added.

“We hope our existing online customers understand our approach, in these challenging circumstances. But to make it work, we also need your support: please ‘think before you click’ and shop in store, if you can do so safely.”

Lewis also revealed that in the last ten days, more than 35,000 new members of staff had joined Tesco, including pickers and drivers to support online. He called the response to new roles “incredible”, with one million people visiting the retailer’s careers website.

Industry intelligence group, Kantar, said yesterday (31 March) that UK grocery sales reached £10.8 billion in the 12 weeks to 22 March, which was higher than even Christmas spending levels.

Kantar said grocery spend online was 13% up on the same period in 2019, and the average online basket size surged to £81.88 in March – over £6 more than the same month one year before.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail & consumer insight at the Kantar Worldpanel UK, said year-on-year sales for the 12 weeks were up by 7.6% – but they were up by 20.6% in the most recent four-week period, making March the biggest month of grocery sales ever recorded.

Commenting on grocery eCommerce, he added: “Government advice may have been to get groceries delivered if possible, but limited delivery slots meant that only 14.6% of households received an online delivery in the past four weeks, up from 13.8% in March 2019 but probably well below actual demand.”