Waitrose drivers are to collect returns for stablemate department store chain John Lewis as the John Lewis Partnership creates efficiencies across the business.

John Lewis customers previously had to take unwanted goods back to a store or a Post Office but Waitrose drivers will now take them when delivering grocery orders, the Telegraph reported.

The rise of online shopping has been accompanied by a rise in returns, which can be costly for retailers to process and so erode profits.

Improved productivity has long been high on Partnership chair Sir Charlie Mayfield’s priorities, and efficiencies will be all the more important in the harsh trading environment which contributed to a fall in the group’s profits last year.

Mayfield said then: “Near-term uncertainty, politically and in the economy, is having a major impact on consumer confidence, but we do not believe the market conditions are cyclical.

“The disruption we have seen on the high street, including business failures and renewed interest in mergers and acquisitions, are instead signs of an inevitable market adjustment which will require greater clarity on whether brands are competing on scale or difference.”

Collection of John Lewis returns by Waitrose drivers is one instance of how the Partnership intends to make more of its scale and seek out areas where its two businesses can complement one another.