Ocado has written to 500,000 customers offering them the chance to buy shares, as the online grocer gears up for its widely trailed stock market flotation.

Every shopper to spend more than £300 with Ocado in 2010 has been sent a letter by the retailer, offering them shares ahead of its planned initial public offering.

Individuals can buy shares worth up to £12,000 alongside institutional investors as the retailer bids to raise up to £1bn.

“The banks would prefer us not to do this because it is simpler to do an institutional float and this is a lot of work [that is] not central to getting the float away,” chief executive Tim Steiner told the Financial Times.

“But we felt that without our customers we wouldn’t be sitting here with a business that we could float.”

The move comes with Ocado looking to complete its debut on the London Stock Exchange by mid-July. The company has raised more than £350m from investors since its launch but has yet to turn a profit.

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