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 352 branches across the United Kingdom, including 30 "little Waitrose" convenience shops, and a 5.1% share of the market, making it the sixth-largest grocery retailer in the UK. They also export products to 58 countries and have shops in the Middle East.
Waitrose has been described by such newspapers as The Telegraph and The Guardian as having an "upmarket" reputation, although former managing director Mark Price suggested 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, 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 shops and 160 employees, was taken over by the John Lewis Partnership. In 1944, the partnership purchased the South Essex grocery business Schofield and Martin, which had 12 shops in its chain. Schofield and Martin's Southend High Street shop was converted into a self-service shop in 1951 becoming the first supermarket run by Waitrose. The Schofield and Martin name was used until the 1960s when the shops were rebranded Waitrose.
In 1955, the chain opened its first Waitrose 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. On 16 June 2016 the shop's most southerly branch opened in Truro, Cornwall.
Since 2000, Waitrose has continued its expansion, including purchasing shops from Somerfield, Morrisons, Woolworths, The Co-operative Group and Sandpiper CI, a move which saw the chain move into northern England and Scotland for the first time.
The firm signed a deal with Alliance Boots which allowed Boots to operate branded pharmacies in Waitrose shops and Boots shops 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's SuperValu 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, something which had previously been restricted due to Waitrose's commercial agreement with Ocado.
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.
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 shops 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.
Aware that Waitrose risked being seen as a food retailer for special occasions rather than everyday shopping, the chain launched its value range of products as "essential Waitrose" in March 2009. The marketing used the tagline: "Quality you'd expect at prices you wouldn't". 1,400 staples were branded with this name using simple white-based packaging. Some people poked fun at the range for selling products that aren't an essential, such as ratatouille Provençal and limoncello desserts. Nevertheless, the range was highly successful. By 2016 it had over 2,000 items and £1.1 billion annual sales, making it one of only five food and drink brands in Britain worth over £1 billion.
In 2016 Waitrose introduced Waitrose 1, a premium market food brand. It offers "The very best of Waitrose" and at launch it included 520 food items.
This is the healthy range of Waitrose products, where the ready meals are calorie counted and other foods such as fruits and vegetables are discounted to promote healthy living.
Heston from Waitrose is another premium brand of Waitrose supermarkets. They include products inspired or created by Heston Blumenthal.
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 shop. 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. 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 20%). The annual partnership bonus for 2011 was 18%, for 2012 was 14%, for 2013 was 17%, for 2014 was 15%, for 2016 was 10% and the most recent bonus was 6% in 2017, the lowest since 1954. After three months service, Partners receive a green discount card (Partner Discount Card) which entitles them to 15% discount in Waitrose and 25% in John Lewis Department Stores on most goods and 12% on electrical 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 Team Manager (ATM), Team Manager (TM), Deputy Branch Manager (DPM) 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.
Waitrose partners wear different uniforms depending on their departments. Managers are expected to wear a blazer with a white shirt with thin grey lines and either charcoal suit trousers or a charcoal skirt. Counter partners must wear a plain white shirt under a grey apron with 'Waitrose' stitched on the front, in addition to a green tie, as well as either charcoal trousers or skirts and a grey hat with hair net for hygiene reasons. Customer services wear a white shirt but with thicker grey lines than the managers, and must also wear a shorter apron than counter partners. They also wear either a charcoal skirt or trousers and a black fleece or gillet with 'Waitrose' branded on the front in addition to a green tie. The 'Operations' section also wears the same uniform as the customer service partners. All partners are expected to wear a name tag.
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 shop is now located in Stirling, which opened in January 2013. Waitrose opened its 300th shop in Helensburgh on the River Clyde on 23 October 2013. There are eight shops in Wales: seven in the southeast and one in the northwest at Menai Bridge. Outside major cities, shops 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). These smaller towns often have a more middle-class demographic in line with Waitrose's core market.
Waitrose shops 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 shops incorporate an in-house restaurant selling hot and cold food sourced in the main from the shop. The myWaitrose card, which customers can obtain online, offers one medium-size cup of tea or coffee to the cardholder per day with a purchase of goods. 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 as a member of myWaitrose, and then insert their myWaitrose card. They 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 as to the Falkland Islands Company (FIC) in the Falkland Islands. Waitrose products are sold in every continent but Antarctica. Hong Kong-based retailer ParknShop also sells Waitrose-branded products. The firm supplies its products to shops in Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Chile, China, Cyprus, Dubai, Falkland Islands, Grenada, Hong Kong, India, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, St Lucia, Tortola and Trinidad.
Announcing its foray into the convenience sector in July 2008, Waitrose opened its first convenience shop 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 shops 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 shops 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 shops.
Waitrose operates food halls in key shops of sister chain John Lewis. The shops 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.
There are six Waitrose Food & Home shops located in Bath, Cheltenham, Rushden, Salisbury, Southend & Leeds Meanwood, with one Waitrose Food, Fashion & Home in Canary Wharf. Both types of shops 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 shops, delivering goods ordered through the internet and serviced from the local branch. This service should not be confused with Ocado, which is an unrelated business, with a licence to distribute Waitrose items. 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 shops also deliver after customers shop in-shop, 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 shop. The shop employs over 200 Partners and provides Waitrose internet food deliveries for most of west and central London from a dedicated site. The shop, whilst not open to the public, is laid out in a similar manner to a regular shop and even offers service counter lines, much like a normal Waitrose supermarket.
Waitrose opened a second DFC purposely built in early 2015 in Coulsdon, South London to service London and the South East.
Waitrose currently has 5.1% share of the food market as of 2015. Additionally it had an 18% and 10% share of the organic food and fish markets respectively, during 2008.
Waitrose head office Waitrose Limited Doncastle Road Southern Industrial Area Bracknell Berkshire RG12 8YA
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