Pureplay grocer Ocado has paused all deliveries to staff members as it seeks to clear a backlog of customer orders after its switchover to Marks & Spencer products.

A spokesman for the retailer said all staff deliveries had been put on hold “for the first few days” of the switchover in a bid to free up delivery capacity to clear backlogs for customer orders. 

“The M&S launch has been incredibly popular. To help minimise the impact of the surge in demand on our customers, the deliveries for Ocado colleagues were paused for the first few days,” he said.  

“We are very grateful to everyone at Ocado for how understanding they have been about our decision to prioritise customer deliveries, and also for the heroic efforts everyone has made over the last few months.”

Retail Week was contacted by an Ocado employee who said the retailer had cancelled all staff orders until at least September 4, having “underestimated the demand for Marks & Spencer food orders”. A perk of working for the retailer is that staff get a 15% discount off of all food deliveries. 

The news comes a day after the long-awaited launch of the Ocado Retail joint venture between the pureplay grocer and M&S, which was marred by criticism from customers over orders being cancelled at the last minute.

Despite insisting “the majority of customers” had been unaffected by cancellations, Ocado still offered its “sincere apologies” to those affected on Tuesday.

As part of the new product switchover yesterday, Ocado pledged “significant investment” to expand delivery capacity by the end of 2021, as currently, just over 70% of UK customers have access to deliveries.

While ecommerce grocery enjoyed a huge boom during the lockdown period, which has broadly carried on since restrictions were lifted, Ocado growth during the period has been hampered by capacity constraints.

In mid-March, at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Ocado temporarily closed its website and effectively barred new customers from signing up. 

At its interim results in July, founder and chief executive Tim Steiner conceded the business was still struggling to make up for the delivery capacity lost when its Andover customer fulfilment centre burned down last February. 

While the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s were able to take on hundreds of thousands of new online delivery customers during the lockdown, Ocado’s active customer base fell 14%.