Waitrose closing more stores
Waitrose has confirmed that it is closing seven more of its supermarkets as part of its recent strategy to offload underperforming sites.
Three of the stores, in Bromley in South East London, Oadby in Leicestershire, and Wollaton in Nottinghamshire, have been sold to Lidl, whilst its Sandhurst outlet in Berkshire is being acquired by an unnamed party.
The other three sites located in Marlow in Buckinghamshire, Stevenage in Hertfordshire, and Waterside, near Heathrow, are set to close in the autumn. Waitrose has now entered a period of consultation with the 677 staff employed at these stores with it hoping to offer them positions in other parts of its business.
Waitrose’s Director of Shop Trade Mark Gifford commented: “We haven’t taken this decision lightly but we have to do what’s right for the business as a whole. Thanks to the hard work of all our Partners we’re making good progress and Waitrose & Partners is on track for profit growth this year but, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we haven’t been able to find a way to make these shops profitable in the long term.”
Following a review of its store portfolio, Waitrose has offloaded a number of unprofitable stores over the last couple of years with a further five closures announced back in March. It has scaled back its expansion plans to focus on making its existing stores more attractive places to shop and ensure they meet the needs of the modern shopper.
The chain has also been cutting costs and pushing through a major range review aimed at removing product duplication, whilst focusing on own label and exclusive items to help it differentiate itself from rivals.
Bryan Roberts, insights director at grocery analysts TCC Global, highlighted that Waitrose’s closures mirrored similar moves by the major supermarket multiples in recent years as they try to cut costs in order to improve their competitiveness against the fast-growing discounters.
He said: “Everybody apart from Aldi and Lidl is having to be more rigorous in getting rid of the runts of the litter that are not pulling their weight because of local competition or just a bad location. Lidl is going to be more confident that it can make these sites work as there is a lot of untapped demand for both Lidl and Aldi. Our research shows a lot more people would shop there if they could, but they have to drive [a long way] to get there.”
Back in June, Waitrose’s owner John Lewis Partnership cut its staff bonus to the lowest level in 65 years following a 45% drop in group profits due the challenging trading conditions and higher costs.