Grocer Waitrose expects continued success in a rapidly changing food retail environment by being “everything the discounters aren’t”, managing director Mark Price has said.
As Waitrose reported sales growth of 6.5% in the first quarter, Price showed off the new Swindon store which crystallises its strategic direction.
They have prompted responses such as price-cutting campaigns and a search for new uses of space in large stores as the big four grocers come under pressure.
However, like the discounters, Waitrose has continued to perform well and Price said the 28,000 sq ft Swindon branch shows “really clearly” how it is competing successfully.
Initiatives include an increased focus on an eat-in offer and ensuring consumers’ in-store and digital experiences complement each other.
Price said: “We are going to be everything the discounters aren’t.”
The Swindon store has 130 food covers for instance, ranging from a fresh juice bar to the option of platters put together in the deli to eat at tables in the wine department. Customers can also select wine from the shelves to accompany their meal and pay corkage.
The retailer is using digital technology to create reasons to visit the store and to enhance the experience when there.
For instance a customer might make a click-and-collect order online, arrange to meet friends to eat while making the pick-up, and benefit from membership of the MyWaitrose loyalty scheme by taking advantage of ‘concierge desk’ services such as gift-wrapping.
Waitrose has also added a human dimension to its online business, linking it back to the store and strengthening the connection between shopper and retailer, by moving away from use of a call centre. Instead shoppers call store staff directly about orders.
Price said Swindon encapsulates “a strategic response” to the forces shaping food retail.
He said: “We don’t describe it as a concept store because the ideas have been tested. We believe it’s very scaleable.”