Waitrose thinks outside the box

I can’t help but be impressed with Waitrose at the moment, as the retailer is looking outside the box at ways to extend its reach.

Rosie Baker

On top of announcing a massive push into the convenience market with plans for 300 potential stores, Waitrose also said last week that it is to tie up with Boots in a partnership that will see both retailers stocking a range of each other’s own brand products.

In the past year, the food retailer has been experimenting with different ways to grow the business and has tried its hand at several new ventures.

Other brand extensions include linking up with Welcome Break to open Waitrose stores at motorway service stations, the introduction of the Essentials range of basic foods, the click and collect service which lets customers buy items from John Lewis online and collect them in a local Waitrose store, a partnership with Duchy Originals

This level of activity and brand partnerships running concurrently could easily result in the retailer losing its focus and ending up with a rather disjointed retail business with a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

I’m reminded of Marks and Spencer’s move last year to stock a collection of branded goods, which although it might appear a good idea to offer customers more choice, it jarred with the cornerstone of M&S’s private label food offer.

However, this is not the case for Waitrose.

The grocer is effectively building on its core values with new propositions that complement and strengthen its position without launching into short-term initiatives that don’t really bring anything to the brand.

With new store formats Waitrose is making itself accessible to more shoppers, in more ways. With its Essentials range and the tie up with Boots it is giving its shoppers more choice.

It feels as though Waitrose can do no wrong at this point in time. The upmarket supermarket reported a 7.2% surge in sales in the six months to 1 August while stablemate John Lewis continued to falter with sales like for likes 4.2% in decline during the same period.

Hopefully it can translate its successful extensions into its department store business.

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