Waitrose drives into service stations

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Motorway travellers will soon be able to pick up sandwiches and ready meals from Waitrose when the supermarket chain opens its first shops at service

The grocery arm of the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership has signed a deal with Welcome Break, the UK’s second-largest motorway services operator, to open two shops in its service areas next month.

The shops, which will be about a sixth of the size of a typical Waitrose store, will open at Oxford services on the M40 and at South Mimms on the M25.

Richard Hodgson, commercial director, said the trial of the service station format was part of moves to “grow our business and make the Waitrose brand more accessible to more people in the UK”.

Waitrose is also trialling two convenience stores, in Bristol and Nottingham, and has launched a range of lower-priced products under the “essential Waitrose” banner.

The service area shops will be staffed by Waitrose “partners” – creating 50 new jobs.

Mr Hodgson said opening costs would be “absolutely minimal”. Under the franchise arrangement, Welcome Break owns the site. Waitrose will provide it with products and in return receive a share of the profits. If the trial is successful, Waitrose will look to introduce units into more of Welcome Break’s 28 service stations across the UK over the next 18 months, although Mr Hodgson said that not all would be suitablefor its shops.

He said Waitrose would be “constantly reviewing . . . the sales performance and tweaking the range if necessary. I think we will know within a couple of months how successful it is.

“We expect it to be extremely successful,” he said, adding that the convenience store format was also doing well.

The service station shops will be competing with Marks and Spencer, which said on Tuesday that it was looking to franchise arrangements to further develop its Simply Food stand-alone food stores.

Waitrose’s service station units will stock more than 850 product lines, which will be a mix of sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks, as well as convenience foods, such as ready meals and groceries, from a combination of Waitrose own and other brands.

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