Waitrose – Kings Cross

We tend to treat Waitrose as a superstore. After all, it has a wide enough range to be able to sustain an online offer, either in its own right or through Ocado. But in fact, in terms of store size and also in the results from Mintel’s consumer research, it straddles the gap between convenience stores and superstores - notionally too big for the former and too small for the latter. That could turn out to be a major point in its favour in the next few years and the new store in Kings Cross shows Waitrose developing a large store (around 2,500 sq m), which offers a full range but also all the aspects of a convenience food retailer.

Perhaps the store was planned hoping that Sunday trading laws were going to be relaxed. The current proposal failed to get through, but it seems unlikely that the present law can last for long. Consumer research for the last Supermarkets – UK, November 2015) made it very clear that the majority of people wanted the law relaxed. When we asked if grocery retailers should be allowed to open longer on Sundays 47% agreed they should and only 24% disagreed.

The food store of the future

The current distinction between superstores and convenience stores is at least partly driven by the Sunday trading laws. Only stores of under 3,000 sq ft are allowed to open all day on Sunday and that has resulted in a distorted market. People are not necessarily getting the sort of store that they might want where they want it.

This new Waitrose is a good example. It is a neighbourhood store – built to service a growing flat-dwelling residential population nearby as well as a substantial lunchtime trade from the office developments in the Kings Cross area as well.

Full range store

So, to start off, it is a full range food store, with great fresh foods and the full range of ambient temperature groceries and non-foods.

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As well as the usual service counters that one expects from Waitrose.

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Food to go

A key area for convenience food retailing is food to go. Research for Mintel’s forthcoming report Convenience Stores –UK, April 2016 shows that customer satisfaction with the food to go offers in c-stores is low and this is an area that they need to invest and experiment in. Being limited to only 3,000 sq ft is a problem in this respect and Waitrose has taken advantage of the space it has in Kings Cross to expand its offer.

But where does food to go finish and hospitality/food service start? There’s no point in being fixated on labels because customers aren’t. The two need to be integrated.

There’s a juice bar.

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And the bakery is also a coffee bar.

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But beyond that, we feel that Waitrose should have done more. There are interesting developments in the food to go field, such as Hello Fresh and Gousto, which could have given new ideas for take away foods, but at present the offer is mainly Waitrose’s familiar ready prepared meals.

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Click and Collect

But we don’t want to be too negative. There are other great aspects of the store.

Take the customer service counter, prominently displaying the Click and Collect facilities, though only, of course, for the John Lewis partnership.

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And there’s a limited non-food offer, including some homewares. This is quite a big store for Waitrose and it is very spacious inside. The company could easily have squeezed more into it, if it had wanted to.

Relaxed and welcoming

But it hasn’t. This store offers a relaxed shopping experience. It is somewhere to linger. It even has a wine bar.

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And an area outside that is a suntrap – especially on a chilly day in early March

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The store of the future

This store encapsulates much of where we feel that food retailing will need to go in the next few years. There is a trend away from doing a main weekly shop and towards shopping more on an as needs basis. The distinction between food retailing and food service is becoming blurred and will become more so. Waitrose may not have got everything right in Kings Cross, but we think it is the way forward.

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