‘Stores have to raise their game’: Waitrose head of customer

Waitrose’s head of customer has admitted that the rise in online shopping - his company included - has put pressure on stores to raise their game.

Speaking at the Advertising Week 2020 virtual conference, Martin George explained that pre-pandemic, e-commerce was about five per cent of Waitrose’s business.

“So put that into context, we were probably doing about 60,000 deliveries a week just delivering from waitrose.com – last week we did 170,000, and the vast majority of that growth has come about because of the impact of COVID.”

George said that around 60 per cent of customers are shopping online more for groceries than they did pre-pandemic. “So this isn't just a small change, it's the majority of the British population who are now shopping more online for food.”

Therefore, George stated that to tempt people back into store, “it’s about making it worth picking up the car keys for, because online is so good, so easy, so convenient”.

He added: “The bar is now very high for physical stores, you really have to make sure that the experience warrants going out of your way, getting in the car, getting on the tube, getting on the train, getting the bike or walking to the store, picking up the items and then bringing them back.”

As for the spectre of a second wave of Coronavirus lockdown bringing another rush of panic buying, George admitted that the experience this spring was “extraordinary”.

“It was like we'd never seen before - even greater than we experience in Christmas week - and clearly the retailers and supply chain really struggled early on to cope with demand.”

Finally, George addressed the wider trend for prolonged and possibly permanent working from home changing the dynamics of retail. “My expectation is that people will work, maximum of two days in the office into the future – I really think the days of five days in the office have really gone.”

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