Waitrose is continuing to overhaul its operations for the Covid-19 “new normal” by rolling out its drive-through service to over 70 stores, allowing customers to order online and then pick up their shopping without ever having to get out of their car.
The drive-through scheme was first piloted in 2013 at its Cheltenham store with Southend, Salisbury, Wolverhampton and Lincoln following suit, but it was only ever limited to a select number of shops.
At the time, Waitrose said the investment “marked a turning point in our ambitions to become a truly omnichannel retailer”. It claimed the introduction of drive-throughs would give time-pressed customers even greater choice about how to receive their orders and would appeal to “busy parents with kids in tow as well as young professionals” and anyone who wanted to collect pre-picked and packaged orders when it suited them.
That was then and this is now, and with coronavirus fears still widespread the scheme is being rolled out to 70 stores, who are offering the service from their car parks, allowing customers to park up in dedicated areas before being greeted by a member of staff.
Customers phone the store to confirm their arrival before items are brought to their vehicles. They can also return items, including John Lewis products at most locations, all the while avoiding other shoppers by not entering stores.
In total, there are 338 Waitrose stores, but many of these do not have parking facilities so will be unable to take part in the programme.
A Waitrose spokesman told The Grocer: “We continue to adapt to the changes we have seen since lockdown and explore new ways to ensure we are doing all we can to protect the health and wellbeing of our customers and partners.
“We have seen a great response to the social distancing measures we have in place, and drive-throughs mean thousands of customers who simply want to collect their shopping can do so quickly and safely.”
From next month, Waitrose’s deal with Ocado expires, meaning customers will have to do their online shopping direct from Waitrose.com. The company claims the site reaches 90% of UK postcodes, offering click and collect, free delivery of orders over £60 and one-hour delivery slots.
The move has also triggered the departure of Waitrose digital director Ben Stimson, who has been at the company for over a decade but in his current role for just 16 months. He is reportedly the only remaining member of the old Waitrose board that reports directly to new boss Dame Sharon White.
James Bailey, who spent nearly 14 years at Sainsbury’s, latterly as buying director, joined Waitrose in April as executive director and has been handed responsibility for digital operations.
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