Backlash Against Waitrose

Oh no, not Waitrose! We love to bash Tesco, England's No. 1, but most hated supermarket. Now the knives are out for Waitrose, the upmarket, fashionable and oh so nice store, recently rated Britain's second favourite shop. It seems that in their efforts to be organic and eco-friendly, they are posing a serious threat to small local shops. They are selling similar organic and locally sourced food but due to their strong buying power, they can buy and sell it more cheaply.

Part of the problem is the introduction of Whole Foods Markets into the UK market. In response to this new competition, Waitrose is planning a huge refurbishment of its 183 stores, making them more upmarket and specialized--catering to people who want to know more about their food's provenance. The first one has now opened in an area with lots of specialty shops and a great Sunday market. A quick visit reveals that the changes are superficial--the fresh fruit has been moved to the front and there is a cafeteria-style prepared foods area. They are offering a portable bar code scanner (and free canvas bags when you sign up for it); vacant check-out counters are identified by a number on a screen. Given the loyalty that Waitrose already engenders in its customers, they should just keep doing what they do best and forget about cosmetic copy-cat changes. :: Guardian

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