Luxury supermarket chain Waitrose, owned by the John Lewis Partnership, will open a total of 26 new stores in 2014, bringing its range of quality goods to new areas in a bid to capitalise on a consumer desire for high quality following several years of thrifty spending as a result the recession.
While key rivals, such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco, have shifted focus from larger supermarket openings to the expansion of their branded convenience stores, Waitrose remains committed to maintaining its steady increase in traditional supermarkets. Therefore, although 11 “Little Waitrose” stores will open in new locations during 2014, the remaining 15 new stores will all be larger supermarkets – somewhat bucking the current industry trend.
Waitrose will largely focus openings in more affluent areas of the UK, with towns such as Egham, Malmesbury and Sherborne all earmarked for new branch openings.
Nigel Keen, director of development at Waitrose, believes the chain’s current approach to store openings will be of most benefit to customers.
He says; “Our growth story continues as we take the brand to more customers and invest in our omni-channel approach.”
This omni-channel approach tends to be the safest bet for retailers both in and outside the grocery business, with consumers becoming increasingly reliant upon flexible shopping initiatives such as click and collect. In order to further streamline the service, Waitrose will open a second “dark store” in Coulsdon, South London in the autumn, thereby doubling its capacity for online order deliveries.
Despite a number of retailers struggling to lift sales over the Christmas period, Waitrose enjoyed huge success with a like for like sales increase of 3.1 per cent. What’s more, 22,000 items were purchased every minute on the 23rd of December, highlighting Waitrose’s popularity.
With most supermarket chains focusing on convenience openings, Waitrose’s decision to remain true to its supermarket expansion plan certainly means the luxury brand stands out from the crowd. It seems that only time will tell whether or not the risk the brand is taking in putting the brakes on the convenience network will pay off.
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