Waitrose switches up a gear to launch two-hour grocery deliveries in London

Up market UK supermarket chain Waitrose will start trialing two-hour or same day delivery options in certain London postcodes from tomorrow.

It’s partnering with CitySprint Group courier delivery spin-out On the Dot for the deliveries which will be made by vans and cargo bikes (so will not in fact be a zero-emission fleet, as claimed in Waitrose’s PR).

The supermarket says the service is being launched in response to customer demand for more ‘little and often’ shopping trips rather than the traditional weekly haul.

Waitrose has long had its own online supermarket, Waitrose.com (and prior to 2010 via Ocado), but the new on-demand delivery option (which it’s calling Waitrose Rapid Delivery) looks intended to supplement that and fill in any competitive gaps opened up as a result of young shoppers not being so keen to commit to a big weekly shop — with the supermarket flagging “flexibility and convenience” as the drivers.

It cites research it commissioned which found two-thirds of UK shoppers regularly or occasionally visit a supermarket more than once a day, saying the trend is particularly prevalent among 18-to 24-year olds who it found to be twice as likely to visit a supermarket twice a day as the over-55s.

Other UK supermarkets have already made moves to cater to Brits’ changing grocery shopping habits, with Sainsbury’s first to the punch to offer a 60-minute delivery service (called Chop Chop) for small food shops in London in 2016, before extending it to additional London postcodes last year.

Tesco responded with its own one-hour delivery service in summer 2017, including in central London.

Not directly mentioned in Waitrose’s PR for the rapid delivery launch, but likely also on its mind, is additional competition from ecommerce giant Amazon — which launched its AmazonFresh grocery delivery service for Prime members in London two years ago.

Prime members must pay an additional subscription to sign up for Prime Fresh, with the subscription business model acting as a sort of double lock-in.

Waitrose’s rapid delivery option is being launched in the following London postcodes initially: SW5, SW6, SW10, WC1, WC2, EC1, CR5 and CR8 — with a wider rollout slated as “likely” next year, if the trial goes to plan. 

Customers in the trial areas can choose up to 20 items per delivery from more than 1,500 products at rapid.waitrose.comThey then get the option of receiving their shopping within two hours of placing the order or they can specify a one-hour time slot that same day.

The service has a £10 minimum spend and there is also a £5 charge applied for delivery in either two hours or the same day.

Waitrose says products will be hand-picked and prepared for delivery by Waitrose Partners — at either its London shops in Fulham and Bloomsbury or at its dot.com distribution centre in Coulsdon, Surrey.

On-demand grocery delivery may now be increasingly on offer to urban dwellers from UK supermarket giants but five years ago startups were toying with offering Instacart-style personal shopper services.

It now looks like grocery deliveries will be mostly folded into the existing supermarket mix via add-on services — depending on the size of grocery pie-slice Amazon can carve itself.

This story was updated to remove references contained in Waitrose’s PR to electric & hydrogen vans used by its partner delivery firm, and a claim of a zero-emissions fleet, after On the Dot contacted us to say that for the purposes of the trial it will only be using vans and cargo bikes