Waitrose is a chain of British supermarkets, which forms the food retail division of Britain's largest employee-owned retailer, the John Lewis Partnership. Its head office is located in Bracknell, Berkshire, England. As of February 2015, Waitrose has 344 branches across the United Kingdom, including 30 "little Waitrose" convenience stores, and a 5.1% share of the market, making it the sixth-largest grocery retailer in the UK.
Waitrose has been described by such newspapers as The Telegraph and The Guardian as having an "upmarket" reputation, although managing director Mark Price suggests this is not the case when its prices are compared to those of rival Tesco.
Founded in 1904 by Wallace Waite, Arthur Rose and David Taylor, Waitrose began as a small grocery store, Waite, Rose & Taylor, in Acton, West London. In 1908, two years after David Taylor had left the business, the name "Waitrose", from the remaining founders' names, was adopted. In 1937, the company, consisting of ten stores and 160 employees, was taken over by the John Lewis Partnership.
In 1955, the chain opened its first supermarket in Streatham, London and continued to expand throughout London and the South East of England during the 1960s. In the 1970s, Waitrose opened branches in Hampshire, Bedfordshire, Essex and Cambridgeshire.
In 1981, counter service was introduced for fresh meat, fish and cheese, and in 1983, Waitrose became the first major supermarket chain to sell organic food.
The firm signed a deal with Alliance Boots which allowed Boots to operate branded pharmacies in Waitrose stores and Boots stores to sell Waitrose food products. The partnership between the companies ended in 2012 having been deemed unsuccessful, which led to Boots replacing Waitrose products with items from Irish retailer Musgrave'sSuperValu chain.
In October 2011, Waitrose opened a Fulfilment Centre in West London as part of its Waitrose.com Online Delivery Service. This allowed Waitrose to offer an online service to customers in London previously restricted due to its commercial agreement with Ocado.
As of October 2013, Waitrose has 300 stores across the UK.
Advertising for Waitrose emphasises the chain's unique selling points. For example, its differences in production processes, emphasising the quality of products or the expertise of their partners (staff). Recent marketing has also attempted to portray the chain as more ethical than other supermarkets, especially with regard to Fairtrade produce.
It was announced on 20 May 2008 that Waitrose would be sponsoring Reading F.C. for the 2008–13 seasons.
In March 2010, Waitrose released a series of adverts, in print, online and on national television, featuring celebrity chefs Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal.
In 1983 Waitrose became the first major supermarket chain to sell organic food, and by 2008 it had an 18% share of the organic food market. In September 2009, Duchy Originals, the struggling organic food business started by Prince Charles was rescued by Waitrose, which agreed to an exclusive deal to stock the range, and to pay a small fee to his charity. In return Prince Charles visited Waitrose stores and dined with senior Waitrose executives and their spouses. In August 2010, the Duchy range was relaunched with many new lines under the Duchy Originals from Waitrose (later Waitrose Duchy Organic) brand.
Departing from earlier practice, the chain rebranded their economy range of products as "essential Waitrose". The marketing uses the tagline "quality you'd expect at prices you wouldn't". 1,600 new and existing products have been rebranded with this name using simple white-based packaging.
In late 2011 the supermarket introduced its first loyalty card scheme, myWaitrose. It differed from supermarket loyalty schemes like Tesco Clubcard and Nectar, giving cardholders access to exclusive competitions and offers instead of allowing them to collect points.
It later began to give cardholders 10% off selected products, as well as free hot drinks in store. Managing director Mark Price has said that this offer has made Waitrose the second largest provider of coffee in the UK, calling it a "phenomenal" response that showed schemes offering loyalty points to be meaningless. He told The Daily Telegraph: "Giving free coffee or free newspapers is disruptive to the market, but I think that is what customers want, I don't think they want a point. I mean, what is a point? I think it's meaningless. It doesn't have the richness, it doesn't have the affinity you can gauge if you engage with your customers in a different way. It is about what do consumers value today, not what did they value historically. So green shield stamps, or points, were a response to what happened post-war . . . I just don't think that is where the world is now."
The Daily Telegraph also later reported that Waitrose has faced "complaints from disgruntled middle-class shoppers who claim its free coffee offer is attracting the wrong kind of customer".
Waitrose publishes a monthly magazine called Waitrose Food, formerly Waitrose Kitchen magazine. This is free to card account holders and myWaitrose card members.
In February 2015, Waitrose Kitchen magazine included an advertising pamphlet, Taste of Israel, submitted by the Israeli government, in which traditional Arabic foods were referred to as Israeli. The advert prompted a social media backlash against Waitrose.
Waitrose donates a portion of its profits to a group of charities on a proportional basis, whilst individual Waitrose branches manage their own charitable donations and local decisions are made on which charities are to be supported. This is a system called 'Community Matters', where customers are invited to choose to whom they want money to be donated.
The supermarket launched the Waitrose Foundation in 2005, providing funds for education, worker facilities and health services among other things for fruit growers in South Africa. This was expanded to Ghana and Kenya in 2009.
As part of the John Lewis Partnership, all of Waitrose's employees are assigned the title of Partner, co-owners of the business. As such, they receive certain benefits, most notably the Partnership bonus, usually around 10–20% of a Partner's yearly salary in a lump sum paid in March (the highest bonus percentage in recent years has been 22%). The annual partnership bonus for 2011 was 18%, for 2012 was 14% for 2013 was 17% and for 2014 the bonus was 15%. After three months service, Partners receive a green discount card which entitles them to 15% discount in Waitrose and 25% in John Lewis Department Stores on most goods.
In 2005, the business introduced a 'Mystery Shopper' programme to score its branches on the service they provide. The mystery shopper grades the branch on its presentation and on the service the branch provides at its service counters, checkouts, wine department and shop floor. In more recent times however, the unpopular mystery shopper programme is being phased out in favour of a customer feedback system called 'Measuring the Magic'. Customers are given a card which directs them to the Waitrose Experience website. In return for grading various areas of their shopping experience, customers are entered into a monthly £500 prize draw. The new system hopes to give feedback tailored to each instance of customer-partner contact, instead of being based on strict criteria.
The employee levels in core branches are: Non-Management Partner inclusive of other non-management roles such as Product Advisor, Wine/Meat & Fish/Cheese & Deli Specialist, Fresh Produce Advisor, Customer Service Assistant (Checkout Supervisors) and Team Leaders (TL). Management levels (ascending) are Assistant Section Manager (ASM), Section Manager (SM), Department Manager (DM) and Branch Manager (BM). In convenience branches the levels are in ascending order: Partner, Team Manager, Assistant Store Manager, Store Manager. Above BMs are ten area managers known as Head of Retail Operations (HoROs), and counterparts in Convenience. They work with a field team including Registrars who are impartial of management and seek to safeguard the constitution which underpins the Partnership. The HoROs report to the two Directors of Retail Operations (north and south), the director of retail and finally at the top, the managing director, Mark Price. Price reports to the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield. Waitrose offers many different management courses, including the Retail Management Training Scheme (RMT) where people leaving school train to become section managers within two years, continuing to become department managers three years later and a Graduate Scheme which aspires to find the future "heads of" in branches and head office.
Waitrose also offers industrial placement schemes for students studying a 4-year degree. This gives them the opportunity to work in branches, leading up to a section manager role within the year. They also offer limited placements at their head office in Bracknell; this gives students experience in departments such as Buying, Marketing and Personnel.
Traditionally, Waitrose branches were largely concentrated in the south-east of England and Greater London; even as recently as 2003, its northernmost English branch was in Newark, Nottinghamshire. However, the company's expansion northwards and into Scotland since the mid-2000s has changed this significantly: the most northerly Waitrose store is now located in Stirling, which opened in January 2013. Waitrose opened its 300th store in Helensburgh on the River Clyde on 23 October 2013. There are eight stores in Wales: seven in the southeast and one in the northwest at Bangor. Outside major cities, stores are often located in smaller settlements between larger population centres, such as at Newport (between Telford and Stafford) and Kenilworth (between Leamington Spa and Coventry).
Waitrose stores vary considerably in size. For example, the smallest branch, little Waitrose at King's Cross station, London, occupies 2,500 sq ft (230 m2) of retail space and the largest, Southend-on-Sea, over 56,000 sq ft (5,200 m2). The average Waitrose occupies a retail space of around 18,000 sq ft (1,700 m2).
Some Waitrose stores incorporate an in-house restaurant selling hot and cold food sourced in the main from the store. The myWaitrose card, which customers can obtain online, offers one free medium-size cup of tea or coffee to the cardholder per day. It is apparent that some visitors to the restaurant use it as a convenient place for a social or business meeting without necessarily purchasing at the store. Other Waitrose outlets have a Costa facility operated as a franchise from the parent company Whitbread.
Waitrose offers a self-service system known as 'Quick Check'. Customers must register to use the system and upon entering the store they insert a registered debit or credit card into a reader and are then automatically issued with a hand-held PDA with built-in barcode scanner, allowing them to scan and pack items as they are taken from the shelf. Loose items from the fresh produce and bakery departments can be weighed at self-service scales, producing a barcode label which can then be scanned. The customer then pays for their shopping at a dedicated self-service checkout by scanning a terminating barcode and recalling the transaction by swiping their registered card. A Partner is summoned when necessary in order to authorise the customer's age for age-restricted items and to help scan any problematic items. The customer can then pay as they would normally.
Internationally, Waitrose holds a licensing agreement with Spinneys of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which operate two purpose-built branches, of which the first opened in the Dubai Mall in October 2008.
Waitrose products are also supplied to Manx retailer Shoprite. As well in the Falkland Islands it supplies to the Falkland Islands Company (FIC). Waitrose products are sold in every continent but Antarctica. Hong Kong-based retailer ParknShop also sells Waitrose-branded products. In addition, it supplies its products to stores in Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Chile, China, Cyprus, Dubai, Falkland Islands, Grenada, Hong Kong, India, Kuwait, New Zealand, Philippines, Qatar, Tortola, Trinidad, Saudi Arabia and St Lucia.
Announcing its foray into the convenience sector in July 2008, Waitrose opened its first convenience store in Nottingham in December of that year. In September 2009, it was announced that a large scale rollout of the concept was planned, opening up to 300 stores in 5 to 10 years. The new arm will operate in a two-tier environment, with the majority of sites expected to trade from 2,500–3,000 sq ft and some trading from a larger 5,000–7,000 sq ft floor plate. A trial of a 'little Waitrose' fascia on smaller floor plate stores may yet lead to brand differentiation of some or all of the convenience estate.
As of 1 February 2012, there were 29 little Waitrose convenience stores.
Waitrose operates food halls in key stores of sister chain John Lewis. The stores are officially branded 'John Lewis Foodhall from Waitrose', and are run by Waitrose carrying many Waitrose own-brand product lines. The first John Lewis Food Hall opened at the flagship London Oxford Street department store in October 2007; a second opened at the Bluewater branch in August 2009.
Waitrose Food & Home / Waitrose Food, Fashion & Home
There are six Waitrose Food & Home stores located in Bath, Cheltenham, Rushden, Salisbury, Southend & Leeds Meanwood, with one Waitrose Food, Fashion & Home in Canary Wharf. Both types of store are large enough to offer a range of John Lewis products and have departments such as The Waitrose Studio, Sushi, Oyster, Salad & Juice Bars, Travel Agent, Dry Cleaning, Photo Processing or a Post Office.
In April 2000, the online food retailer Ocado was launched. John Lewis Partnership came on board as a principal supplier and part owner in October 2000. The Ocado service is only available in certain areas of Britain. Ocado uses a central warehouse to service their deliveries. In November 2008, the John Lewis Partnership transferred its shareholding, then 29%, into its staff pension fund. It also agreed a five-year supply deal with the business, replacing its previous one year rolling deal. This deal was amended in 2010 to a ten-year agreement to supply products to Ocado. In February 2011, John Lewis Pension trust divested itself of its Ocado shares.
Waitrose operates its own delivery service, Waitrose.com (previously WaitroseDeliver), which is only available in certain stores, delivering goods ordered through the internet and serviced from the local branch. This service should not be confused with Ocado, which is a separate business. Waitrose.com also hosts the online ordering system for Waitrose's special order food and cakes service "Waitrose Entertaining" as well as ordinary online grocery shopping. Waitrose became the first supermarket to abolish all delivery charges as of May 2009.
Some stores also deliver after customers shop in store, branded as "Shop in branch, we deliver".
In October 2011, Waitrose opened a "Dotcom Fulfilment Centre" in Acton, West London, less than two miles from its original store. The store employs over 200 Partners and provides Waitrose internet food deliveries for most of west and central London from a dedicated site. The store, whilst not open to the public, is laid out in a similar manner to a regular store and even offers service counter lines, much like a normal Waitrose supermarket.