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Counter offensive: Waitrose takes fresh counters online in pledge to keep them open

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Waitrose is to extend the reach of its fish and meat counters, adding them to its site from the beginning of 2021.

Following news last week that Sainsbury’s was closing many of its in-store food counters with the loss of 3500 jobs, Waitrose has decided that with customers still wanting the counter service, it needs to take it online to tap into the changing shopping habits forged by coronavirus.

As the only supermarket to have kept its counters open throughout Covid-19, the supermarket has not only maintained its offer, it has continued to support suppliers by launching new products too, with more than 30 new lines having launched since April 2020 and several new products and promotions being launched just for Christmas.

Waitrose’s commitment to continue its counter expansion follows the supermarket’s pledge in 2019 to train new specialist Partners to enhance skills, knowledge and expertise across its counters to further improve customer experience.

Jackie Wharton, Director of Category Proposition at Waitrose, explains: “Waitrose is renowned for its service counters and they remain a key reason why many people shop with us. Having tripled our slot capacity to over 200,000 orders a week and in light of increased demand for online this year, there is now a huge opportunity for us to offer our counter range on and we’re excited to relaunch it at the beginning of next year.”

She adds: “Not only do our counters offer the freshest produce available on the market, they provide something special, personalised and more sustainable. And having taken the decision to keep our counters open broadly throughout this pandemic and thanks to support from our customers, they are also helping to sustain many of our smallest British suppliers, who otherwise would not have had a route to market this year.”

Talking about the struggles of small producers in Covid-19, Catherine Mead, Owner of Lynher Dairies, adds: “Waitrose has been a key relief for small cheese making businesses. It is famous for its cheese counters and it has done its best to maintain them during this period as they recognised how vital they are for many small British businesses such as ourselves.”

In addition to being the only UK supermarket to keep its counters open throughout Covid-19, Waitrose has launched a number of other initiatives to help its smallest suppliers this year: In April, with the rise in customers purchasing mince, it launched a number of strategic promotions to help encourage more customers to buy finer cuts of meat to support British beef farmers.

In May, it launched a “best of British” cheese box across 251 stores to help five of its smallest artisan cheese producers find a new audience, while  in July, it took stock of MSC British clams and cockles from struggling Dorset fishermen, who otherwise would have not had a route to market due to the closure of the restaurant industry. For its sustainable approach to fishing and unrivalled selection of fresh responsibly sourced fish, Waitrose has once again been awarded Fish Counter of the Year by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2020.

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