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Waitrose extends packaging-free in-store trial

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Waitrose is to extend its packaging free trial to three more stores after “an overwhelmingly positive response” to an initial experiment in its Botley Road, Oxford store.

The Waitrose Unpacked trial will now be included as part of the refurbishment of in stores Cheltenham, from September, and Abingdon and Wallingford, from November. The new-look stores will include a dedicated refillable zone, with dispensers for dried products, frozen pick and mix fruit, coffee, wine and beer refills and Ecover detergent and washing up liquid refillables. There will also be a range of Unpacked fruit and vegetables. 

The supermarket has also extended its original trial, which started in June, and saw it take more than 200 products out of packaging in order to find out whether customers would be prepared to shop differently and reduce their use of packaging. It was the first mainstream UK supermarket test of a packaging free approach that’s already proved popular in niche stores. 

In the first nine weeks of the trial more than 7,000 customers have provided feedback, via customer interviews, in-store feedback walls, online on its website and on social media. The findings so far, says Waitrose, have given it confidence in the concept.

Tor Harris, head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners, said: “The reaction to Waitrose Unpacked has been incredible with the valuable feedback from thousands of customers giving the confidence that they are prepared to change how they shop with us.

“We are keen to take the Unpacked concept forward and these additional tests will help us achieve this as well as understand its commercial viability. Through working with our customers and supplies we will continue to learn and develop ideas which has the potential to be rolled out more widely.”

Learnings from the early weeks of the Oxford trial include that shoppers preferred to bring their own containers rather than borrow a box, while the veg kitchen, where staff prepare loose vegetables in order to deter shoppers from buying ready prepared vegetables in plastic bags, did not prove as popular as other measures.

Waitrose is a Top50 retailer in IRUK Top500 research.

Our view: We think the success of this shop-based trial is important information for retailers selling across channels, since it illustrates not only a real consumer desire to avoid excess packaging, but that shoppers are willing to go out of their way in order to achieve that. It’s not unreasonable to think that shoppers may soon prefer to buy online from those that deliver sustainably, from the type of packaging to the vehicles they use.

Image courtesy of Waitrose

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