Upmarket grocer Waitrose will open its first London-based distribution centre (DC) for its online business tomorrow (Tuesday October 4th), creating more than 200 jobs in the process.
The Dotcom Fulfilment Centre in Acton, west London previously functioned as a DC for the department store group John Lewis, Waitrose’s sister company, but after a £3 million conversion it is now ready to take online orders made by the supermarket’s customers.
Waitrose only started providing online shopping for consumers in England’s capital in July this year, and until now any orders made via the web have been met by the retailer’s 19 branches in the city.
Demand for the company’s online services has grown considerably over the course of the last three months though, and the new DC will initially handle 2,000 orders a week, a number that is then expected to grow significantly in the next few months.
When at full capacity the 37,000 sq ft centre will effectively become the largest food-only Waitrose branch, the only difference being that consumers themselves do not enter the premises – it is solely used by the retailer’s product pickers and operations staff.
Some 14 Waitrose stores will also continue to deliver to certain parts of London.
Mark Price, Managing Director of Waitrose, said: “We see huge potential for our online business across the country and in the important London market and this new fulfilment centre is a big step forward in meeting the incredibly strong demand for Waitrose products, service and value in the capital.”
The move by Waitrose to enhance its online offering will put more pressure on e-tail grocer Ocado, which sells many Waitrose product lines and – until the summer – did not have to compete with the company in the London area.
Last month Ocado warned that it expects its full-year margins to be lower than originally planned, with capacity constraints at its Hatfield customer fulfilment centre (CFC) having an impact on the company’s bottom line.
It is currently in the process of fitting out its third warehouse site this year, in Oxfordshire, which is scheduled to open in November. The business’s second largest CFC, in Warwickshire, will also be in operation from the end of 2012.