Upmarket grocer Waitrose today gave its strongest indication yet that it will be expanding its non-food offering nationwide as it reopened its largest UK store, complete with dedicated floors to homewares and fashion.
The supermarket, which has bucked the recent trend for slow grocery market growth by posting an 8.7 per cent year-on-year sales increase for the first half of 2011, this morning unveiled its inaugural Waitrose Food, Fashion & Home fascia based at London’s Canary Wharf.
All homeware and fashion items at the three-floor store are sourced by the buying teams from partner organisation John Lewis, highlighting the growing synergies between the two businesses which already sees Waitrose operating food halls at the department store’s outlets.
John Lewis also recently announced that it will be doubling its click & collect network in the next two months by using a further 60 Waitrose stores as pick-up points for its products.
Retail Gazette understands that Waitrose is considering developing its own fashion brands as it looks to join fellow grocery giants Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s in developing its non-food offering further, but for now Managing Director Mark Price views the Canary Wharf store as “very much a one-off for fashion”.
“We put a fashion floor in here because we are trading on three stores – normally we trade on two levels in our bigger shops,” he told Retail Gazette.
“What we do think, however, is that in our mainline shops there is the opportunity to stock an element of basic fashion such as socks and shirts.”
Redeveloping the new look east London Waitrose, located in the heart of the busy financial and media hub, cost the grocer £15 million, but as the business’s flagship store there is every chance that the services and products it offers could be replicated elsewhere in the firm’s portfolio.
The wine bar and accompanying cellar at the 74,000 sq ft store, may be more specifically targeted at the thousands of financial professionals and other businesspeople working nearby, but the range of kitchen and beauty products on offer may soon be replicated in other Waitrose outlets nationwide.
“We want to be great at dining items and other non-food areas,” Price explained.
“I would expect us to do more in health & beauty, childrenswear and toys too; products like that are right for Waitrose as we build our product range.”
Refurbishment at the new store, which prior to its facelift typically served 80,000 customers per week, has led to the creation of a further 150 retail jobs.
Changes made to the layout have also resulted in Waitrose’s recently launched food-to-go range being moved to the front of the store to cater for a time-poor professional customer base, as well as the development of improved hospitality areas that serve up meals using products available on the shelves.
With three floors there is a distinct department store feel to the branch, which is perhaps another nod to the influence of its sister business which is a specialist in this sector.
Price, who stressed that growth in non-food will not be at the expense of Waitrose’s food offer, added: “This is our biggest ever investment in an existing branch, and we’re excited about the changes we’ve made.
“The branch won awards when it was built nearly ten years ago, and this transformation will underline its status as our flagship shop and as a major shopping destination in its own right.”