Ocado customers fume as grocery orders are cancelled

Ocado newOcado customers have been left spitting feathers after their orders were cancelled on the first day of the online grocery delivery firm’s tie-up with Marks & Spencer following what it called a “surge in demand”, even though the switchover has been over a year in the making.

Ocado insisted the issue has only affected a “very small number” of orders and offered its “sincere apologies”. The firm said: “The vast majority of customers are unaffected and will be delivered as normal. We would like to thank our customers for giving M&S such a big welcome and sincere apologies to any customers having to wait a bit longer.”

M&S replaced Waitrose on Ocado’s platform from today, having signed a deal in August last year. It paid an upfront fee of £562.5m, with a further £187.5m conditional on performance over five years, for a 50% stake in Ocado.

However, Twitter was rife with moaners. One customer tweeted: “Big day but you’ve cancelled my order that has been booked for 4 weeks! Long time customer who now can’t get a delivery until Sunday… shocking service!”

Another said: “My order due 2pm tomorrow has been cancelled. I booked the slot over 10 days ago. I have been an Ocado customer for 10 years. Day 1 of M&S and I want to know how I can cancel my membership.”

The move follows a warning from M&S chairman Archie Norman, who as far back as July 6 told investors that the £750m joint venture with Ocado would see swathes of customers struggle to place orders.

At the time, Norman said: “Ocado during the crisis has been in huge demand, because existing Ocado customers have been trying to increase their orders and additional people have been trying to get on to the delivery circuit.

“As a result, because they distribute out of these huge robotic warehouses they are right now operating at capacity, so we can’t say how much scope there will be for new M&S customers or shareholders. But it is likely to be very limited.”

It is not known whether the Ocado orders were cancelled to accommodate new M&S customers but the stakes are high, with both Waitrose and M&S currently running major marketing campaigns to woo shoppers.

According to the data from Nielsen, online grocery sales rose by 117% in the four weeks to August 8, achieving a record market share of 14%. UK shoppers spent £678m more on FMCG products during the month, with online sales accounting for 97% of this growth, equating to £658m.

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