What next for Waitrose Essentials?

Waitrose walked away with the retail award at last year’s Marketing Week Engage Awards for the launch of its Essentials range, which helped make Waitrose the fastest growing supermarket during the recession.

Since launch, the Essentials range has continued to grow and is a permanent part of the Waitrose brand strategy, accounting for 16% of total sales. It surpassed all expectations and helped Waitrose boost its market share by 4% in the first three months.

The retailer is continually refreshing the range and has just introduced a line of £1 sandwiches.

The launch of Essentials allowed the retailer to give shoppers a range of good quality everyday food products at entry level prices, appealing to customers feeling the pinch of the recession but not alienating its well-heeled shoppers or straying from its core brand.

Rupert Thomas the chain’s marketing director says: “Waitrose was thought to be pricey and the brand image wasn’t consistent across categories in the store so whatever strategy we took needed to address that.”

He adds that it was important not to pitch its new own brand label as a discount brand and to communicate that all its products maintained the high quality standards that Waitrose is renowned for, such as al ways using free range eggs.

Andy Nairn, executive planning director at MCBD, the agency that created the ad campaign for the launch, believes that Essential Waitrose engaged with consumers and the Engage Award judges because it was a real business transformation strategy story.

“It was the creation of a new brand – not just an advertising campaign. It could have gone wrong and alienated Waitrose shoppers not brought people on board. Waitrose created a £600m brand in less than a year and it smashed all the projections of growth.” he says.

He adds: “Essentials was a big business change and it’s an incredible platform for the brand. It is also tangible proof that Waitrose has become more accessible and not so pigeonholed.”

Recalling the excitement of the awards night, Thomas says: “First and foremost, Essentials was about doing the right thing for the customer, but it’s good for our marketing team and agencies to get recognition – it acts as a beacon around the business.”

Nairn adds:”The Engage Awards event was as big night and a full house. Everyone was impressed by the size and scale of the awards event, particularly in its first year. I would definitely recommend the Engage Awards because it’s satisfying to be rewarded for effectiveness, not just a piece of creative, particularly in such a hard fought category as retail.”

Learn more about the Engage Awards 2011 categories, including the Retail category here

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