Ocado is poised to double its non-food SKU count by the end of the year as the online grocer bids to diversify its range and poach shoppers from rivals.

Ocado is preparing to launch a raft of dedicated non-food websites

The upmarket etailer will ramp up its non-food offer to 15,000 lines during a critical year for the business after it opened a warehouse dedicated to home and general merchandise in Welwyn late last month.

The initiative is part of chief executive Tim Steiner’s strategy to move Ocado “from a supermarket to a hypermarket”.

Ocado is to launch a raft of dedicated non-food websites to deepen its range, from maternitywear to tools, in a bid to grab market share from the supermarkets.

Steiner is deciding which of the sites, due to launch later this year, will be unveiled first. It will be either pets, baby or toys.

The number of SKUs per site is expected to be equivalent to a high street specialist store at first, before a range is developed that will replicate an out-of-town warehouse.

An Ocado spokeswoman said the grocer is responding to customer demand. “Customers like the convenience of these items arriving in the allocated time slot with the groceries,” she said.

However, Ocado’s main focus will remain on the opening of its second grocery customer fulfilment centre in Dordon, Warwickshire, later this month or in early March.

Barclays Capital analyst James Anstead said: “Ocado will be keen to deliver a problem-free opening and to then demonstrate a steady improvement in operational efficiency and a release of pent-up demand.”

As Retail Week went to press Ocado was scheduled to unveil widened losses in its full-year results. The etailer extended its debt facilities by 18 months in November and last month appointed former Marks & Spencer executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose as its chairman.

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