Waitrose is introducing a delivery charge to customers for the first time in its history to “bring us in line with the rest of the market” and cover the increasing costs of picking and packing.
Waitrose, which alongside Iceland remains the only major UK grocer continuing to offer free delivery, is understood to have introduced the fees to customers in some areas last month.
According to The Grocer, the fees were introduced quietly on a “trial” basis in order to reflect the increasing number of online orders it is fulfilling, now accounting for around 20 per cent of its overall sales.
Since lockdown began in March 2020, the online grocery market has seen staggering growth rising over 70 per cent every month for the last 12 months.
This steep and rapid rise in online orders has taken “increasingly more of our shop partners’ time to manage”, Waitrose said, adding that the new fees were aimed at finding “a fair way of charging for grocery deliveries, reflecting the work that goes into picking, packing and delivering customer orders”.
A spokesperson continued: “Waitrose.com is the only grocery retailer not to currently charge for our online deliveries, absorbing the cost into our shop operations. So a charge will not only bring us in line with the rest of the market but will also mean we can continue to offer the best levels of customer service”.
It comes just days after Waitrose announced that it was scrapping its ‘Rapid’ two-hour delivery service so it can “focus solely on (its) Deliveroo partnership”.
Rapid was originally launched across eight London postcodes to offer customers delivery of up to 25 items in 120 minutes, for a flat rate of £5.
While it has continued to expand Rapid’s reach since its launch three years ago, Waitrose partnership with Deliveroo can now offer a faster, cheaper and more widely available service rendering its own brand offering largely redundant.
Last week, Deliveroo and Waitrose announced a new two-year partnership which will see them quadruple the number of stores offering rapid delivery to 110, giving around 13 million customers access to Waitrose goods via Deliveroo.
Historically, grocers have struggled to turn a profit when delivering online orders, but new research from Atrato Capital suggests the pandemic-driven boom has allowed supermarkets to turn a profit for the first time in nearly 20 years.