The grocery arm of the John Lewis Partnership has proposed closing its delivery warehouse in Enfield in the summer, putting over 500 jobs at risk.

waitrosedotcom van

Waitrose previously earmarked £100m for investment as demand for online groceries increased

A letter to warehouse staff written by online director Laura Burbedge, seen by Retail Week, said the lease on the Enfield, north London, site is due to expire in 2025 and that “while exploring contract negotiations with the landlord is possible… we know our rent costs at Enfield will increase”.

The letter said: “With this in mind, regrettably we’re proposing to close Waitrose Enfield [customer fulfilment centre] on July 20 and move order volume into Waitrose Coulsdon and Greenford CFCs.

“This would support the Partnership Plan and save us £8.7m of operating costs, making the overall Waitrose online operations more profitable.”

A spokesman for the partnership said affected staff will be entering into consultation with the retailer from today and the process is expected to take at least 12 weeks.

Retail Week understands around 545 roles will be affected by potential redundancy.

Waitrose has decided to close the warehouse despite predicting that customer orders in London will increase to more than 50,000 per week by 2030.

A source at the warehouse called the decision “a bit of a mystery”, adding that the CFC “excels at delivering on time”, is always “top of the mystery shopper table” and is “the most profitable of the three CFCs in the group”.

At least one of the north London CFCs in Greenford is contracted to third-party logistics provider Wincanton.

Waitrose opened the 110,000 sq ft Enfield depot in 2020 as part of its then plans to more than double its online grocery business in London by September of that year, following its split with Ocado.

The retailer earmarked £100m of investment into online in the run-up to the decoupling and with the pandemic driving up the demand for online groceries.

The CFC was designed to add around 13,000 weekly delivery slots to Waitrose’s capacity and was scheduled to create up to 850 jobs when running at full capacity.

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “With rental costs at Enfield due to increase and capacity elsewhere in our network, we are considering the closure of the site. 

“While not an option we’re exploring lightly, the proposal would maintain our high levels of customer service for and support future growth. It’s in no way a reflection of the hard work and dedication of our team. No decision will be made until we have fully consulted with all partners at our Enfield site who are being supported throughout the process.”