Analysis: How effective will the Waitrose/John Lewis link-up be?

Evidence suggests that Waitrose’s premium-loving customers would buy John Lewis products in the supermarket, but how far can a link-up boost the sister brands?

John Lewis
John Lewis: Goods now in Waitrose

Family connections are being forged on the high street as a new commercial deal between sister companies John Lewis and Waitrose aims to bring the brands closer together.

Despite both retailers attracting similar demographics, GB TGI 2009 data made available to Marketing Week suggests John Lewis will be able to tap into the willingness of Waitrose customers to spend on premium items at a time when many people are cutting back.

The TGI research reveals that Waitrose shoppers are 95% more likely than the average adult to buy premium items, compared with 67% of John Lewis’ own customers.

A large portion of Waitrose customers (58% more than average) also claim to have expensive tastes, compared to those who shop at John Lewis (49%). This difference in attitude may see John Lewis’s more expensive products fly off the shelves quicker in Waitrose than in its own stores.

Partnership

The link-up means that thousands of John Lewis kitchenware and homeware products are now available via the Waitrose website and in 18-20 of its stores. Customers will be able to choose between having the products delivered to their homes or picking up the goods in around 200 Waitrose stores.

Andrea O’Donnell, commercial director at John Lewis, says this latest deal is part of a “strategic relationship” to leverage the power of both high-street brands.

Mark Price, managing director at Waitrose claims that 27% of his shoppers are also John Lewis customers, “so it makes sense to bring the brands closer together”.

With Waitrose customers willing to buy premium items, it makes sense for John Lewis to have a presence in the store. According to Neil Saunders, senior retail analyst at Verdict Research, the brands’ shared consumer base means this tie-up is “common-sensical”.

Toys and gift items, made available over the Christmas period, will help Waitrose to test just how much its food customers want to treat themselves to a wider range of non-food items. Price says it will slowly introduce more products during next year following an assessment of how this commercial deal performs over the coming months.

John Lewis’s O’Donnell says: “Supermarkets have gone into non-food in a big way, but none of them have the credibility that John Lewis has in terms of home products. It is a very differentiated strategy whereas Sainsbury’s and other retailers have gone down very similar routes in terms of what they’re offering.”

The retailers’ bond will be getting closer in other areas too. A new Waitrose-branded foodhall is being opened within a John Lewis in Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. And John Lewis is also trialling a service on its website which will enable customers to pick up goods from Waitrose stores.

The shared demographics should help both brands to consolidate their positions on the high street. If John Lewis can encourage the Waitrose shopper to push more pounds its way, the sibling relationship will be stronger than ever.

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