Waitrose will add 4,700 extra hours to its store opening times this Christmas and has upped the number of online delivery slots.

Waitrose said Cyber Monday next Monday will kick start the busiest period of the year for online orders. Pre-Christmas delivery slots have been booked up at a record rate this year, with slots on December 23 and 24 already sold out and December 22 and 21 reportedly selling out quickly.

As the grocer gears up for the busiest shopping period of the year, the extra branch shopping hours will be the equivalent to opening 19 more branches over the festive period.

The majority of branches will open until 10pm between December 16 and 22, compared to the usual closing time for most of 9pm. Some will stay open until 11pm on December 21 and 22.

With Christmas Eve set to be one of the retailer’s busiest trading days of the year, more than two thirds of Waitrose branches will open at 7am on December 24, compared to 8am on a usual Monday. Nearly the same proportion will stay open until 6pm, instead of 5pm. Waitrose will also open nearly all of its shops until 6pm on New Year’s Eve.

Waitrose retail director Rob Collins said: “We know that the run up to Christmas is one of the busiest times of year for our customers and we want to make it as convenient as possible for them to carry out their festive shop.

“We’ve extended both our branch hours and our online delivery slots, so that customers can shop in-store or have their order delivered to their homes at a time that suits them best.

He added: “Our warehouses will be working hard to send out more cases of stock than ever before, so shoppers can get hold of everything they need for their festivities.”

Waitrose warehouses will dispatch more than 26 million cases of stock to branches during December with a delivery being made to a branch every minute. Their busiest day will be December 21 while branches will be at their busiest on December 22.

The retailer has dubbed Christmas Eve ‘T-day’, the day when most customers pick up their turkeys - with more than one expected to be collected every second.
Waitrose also launched its free customer magazine Waitrose Weekend as an iPad edition this week for the first time.

Waitrose Weekend, which launched in March 2010, has a weekly print run of 350,000 copies and is available in 286 stores.