If there is one retailer that could have convincingly used the snow as an excuse for lost sales over the Christmas period it is Ocado.
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The only way it can get its goods to customers is by road and all its stock comes from one distribution centre.
But Ocado did not need to use the snow as an excuse as it confidently notched up a gross sales uplift of 26.7% in the four weeks to December 26.
The grocer, which floated last summer, said it had successfully delivered more than 98% of customer orders in the period. Boss Tim Steiner said the uplift would have been marginally more than 30% had it not been for the snow but Ocado decided to reduce the number of delivery slots available to ensure it could maintain high customer service.
For a retailer that spent much of last year being kicked by critics and shorted by hedge funds, its Christmas showing must be a relief. The uplift was in line with expectations and Ocado said it proved that it has done what it said on the tin at the time of its IPO.
Ocado’s Christmas performance is solid but for the bears to change their minds it needs to keep up the rate of growth this year. And that will be difficult. When Tesco launched its online grocery service, it could not keep up the phenomenal growth rate it enjoyed in its early years.
The other key factor is the impact that Waitrose’s home delivery service will have on Ocado’s growth rate. The non-compete clause covering the area within the M25 comes to an end fully in July but from now on Waitrose will start to ramp up its delivery service in the London area. Ocado believes there is room for both retailers to grow but, if Waitrose offers the same level of customer service as Ocado, it will be hard to choose between them.
Much of Ocado’s investment case depends on its second warehouse, for which it said plans for are on track. In the meantime, growth must be sustained. It will take more than a solid Christmas update to change sentiment just yet.
For analysis of Ocado visit retail-week/ocado