// Waitrose has been named “supermarket of the year” by Which?
// Which? found the grocer to be ahead of rivals in how it handled the Covid-19 crisis
// Separately, Waitrose food & grocery boss Rupert Thomas announces resignation
Waitrose has been awarded the “supermarket of the year” title by consumer group Which?, beating competition from shortlisted rivals Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Iceland.
The upmarket grocer was recognised for its handling of trade during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially during the panic-buying frenzy that took place in March.
Which? said Waitrose provided customers with a “range of ways to shop” and said it handled the surge in demand during the pandemic really well, especially during lockdown.
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In the weeks leading up to September 1, when its partnership with Ocado came to an end, weekly online orders reportedly averaged 345,000.
Waitrose said it has more than doubled its weekly online delivery slots and click and collect slots from 60,000 to 190,000, and there are plans to further increase its capacity now that it is running its ecommerce business on a standalone basis.
The supermarket chain, owned by John Lewis Partnership, set aside 25 per cent of its online delivery slots for elderly and vulnerable shoppers, while also providing priority access to NHS workers across their stores.
Waitrose also gave additional funding to FareShare and the Trussell Trust to help those in local communities in isolation and facing food insecurity, and to Kitchen Social – a programme which gives young people a safe place to go during the school holidays where they can socialise and receive a free, healthy meal.
“Supermarkets in particular have experienced incredibly turbulent times, first with a surge in demand for key items and then followed by a greater demand for delivery slots, especially for elderly and vulnerable customers, or those required to self-isolate,” Which? chief executive Anabel Hoult said.
“The way in which Waitrose has risen to the challenge, resulting in overwhelmingly positive feedback from consumers, is why we’re pleased to name them Which? Best Supermarket 2020.”
James Bailey, the recently-appointed executive director of Waitrose, dedicated the award to the retailer’s staff and network of farmers and food producers.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the 53,000 Partners in our business,” he said.
“Every single one of them has gone above and beyond this year. They’ve had to adapt to completely different working lives; implementing social distancing, ramping up online orders and ensuring those who are vulnerable or shielding had access to food.
“This award is a testament to what they have achieved, as well as the 1800 John Lewis partners who stepped in to help us out at the height of the crisis when their shops were temporarily closed.
“We couldn’t be a supermarket without the thousands of producers and farmers who’ve all shown incredible resilience to get food on to people’s plates, so I’d like to think this award is for them as well.
“Their efforts to keep our shops stocked, while at the same time helping us treble our online capacity during the most challenging year in food retail I can remember, have been nothing short of monumental.”
The news came shortly after it was revealed that Waitrose food and grocery director Rupert Thomas was set to leave the business at the end of the year.
Waitrose has reportedly commenced a recruitment process to find his replacement.
Thomas has been with the retailer since 2003, joining from Sainsbury’s, and was promoted to marketing director in 2010 before being appointed to head up the commercial team in 2017, followed by his current role in 2019.
Bailey said: ”Rupert will be sorely missed and I know everyone in the Partnership will join me in wishing him well for the future.”