Waitrose adds online fulfilment capability to 24 more stores

UK grocer Waitrose has announced it will use 24 more of its stores as online fulfilment hubs, to support demand for its internet shopping services.

Starting last week with its Hailsham, East Sussex store, the retailer will fulfil a growing number of online orders from local stores in addition to using its centralised customer fulfilment centres (CFC).

Waitrose said the shops used for serving online shoppers are “strategically placed to handle increased demand for the retailer’s online shopping service in preparation for its split from Ocado”.

From 1 September, Ocado will no longer sell Waitrose products, replacing its long-term food and drink partnership with Marks & Spencer, as part of a comprehensive joint venture signed at the start of 2019.

It means Waitrose food and drink will now be available online exclusively at Waitrose.com, and the supermarket chain is ramping up its operations to support the now standalone service.

Currently, 150 of the retailer’s shops cover deliveries across the UK, and Waitrose said it is undertaking significant work to add order capacity to these existing online fulfilment hubs. In addition, a new CFC is due to open in Enfield this year to support order demand in London.

Ben Stimson, digital director at Waitrose, commented: “September offers the single biggest growth opportunity for our business and we're investing heavily to achieve it. 

“We're not starting from scratch – Waitrose.com is growing significantly ahead of the market and we already deliver to tens of thousands of customers each week, added to the millions who visit our shops.”

He added: “We have robust plans in place to extend our reach ahead of September. We have significant investment planned for the coming months across our infrastructure, website and service – creating more delivery slots and employing a fleet of new drivers.”

Adding online capability to an additional 24 shops will help Waitrose serve more of the UK – it already says it has 84% coverage of UK postcodes.

Thousands of new food products are expected to appear at Waitrose in the coming months following the arrival of Martyn Lee as its new executive chef, in February.

Waitrose continues to test new online services, and is currently looking to expand its While You’re Away proposition, which enables customers to grant delivery drivers permission to enter their homes and put the shopping away in the shopper's absence.