Waitrose is to open a new customer fulfilment centre in north London as it plans to double its online grocery orders in the capital by September.
The new site, in Enfield, will initially create 370 new jobs, rising to 850 when it reaches full capacity. It will open as part of the retailer’s preparations for the end of its partnership with Ocado – which is to work with M&S from September – and is part of a £100m investment in its online business. Its move to expand online capacity, first signalled in February, has already stepped up as the retailer sees a fast rise in demand during the coronavirus pandemic. Already it has expanded its service by 50% to more than 120,000 orders a week. Currently the vulnerable and elderly are prioritised for orders, and last week this group received 35% of all Waitrose online orders. Time spent picking and delivering orders has increased by more than 1,300 full-time equivalent roles. Despite this, says Waitrose, demand is still far outstripping its capacity.
Waitrose.com director Ben Stimson said: “Before coronavirus, Waitrose.com was already going through a period of significant expansion, with investment across our infrastructure and website. Enfield was planned as a big part of our expansion plans – but in fact it is now also helping us respond as best we can to the huge demand for online slots – especially from our most vulnerable customers.
“One thing that recent weeks have highlighted to us is the importance of online retail to vulnerable people. Our shops have always been firmly rooted in their communities but through these challenging times our partners working in shops and delivering grocery orders have been at the forefront of trying to respond to these needs in a way we couldn’t have imagined. We’re extremely proud of partners across the country and the vital role they’re carrying out.”
Work on the Enfield centre started last October, with a focus on sustainability measures including a rain-harvesting system that will mean all 100 delivery vans that will serve the centre can be cleaned using rainwater.
Paul Shanks, general manager of the Enfield centre, said: “There has been a Herculean effort across many teams in preparation for launch – the team has worked tirelessly through such unprecedented times, reacting, embracing and evolving to ensure we remain on track. To have played a part in that has been great.’
Once it is in operation, the Enfield centre will work alongside an existing South London centre – in Coulsdon – and a network of 14 delivery shops in the capital. In recent weeks 40 London shops have become collection points for click and collect grocery orders. It has also trebled the size of its Rapid service – which delivers 25 items within two hours – to 7,000 orders a week. At least 40% of the slots are reserved for vulnerable customers.
Waitrose is a Top100 retailer in RXUK Top500 research.
Image courtesy of Waitrose