As a footfall driver, the myWaitrose free coffee and tea initiative has been cheap as chips compared with the ‘quantitative easing’ some of its big four rivals have partaken in. And it’s been genuinely disruptive and successful.
But there are also problems with the mechanic. It’s quite inconvenient to drink and shop. Grabbing a coffee as you leave - laden with bags - isn’t much better: it might drive footfall but not bigger baskets.
“Fringe shoppers may be tempted to stick around at Waitrose and not just for free coffee”
And there’s another problem: abuse. Some chancers are popping in for a free coffee, and walking straight out. Others are taking advantage without paying the minimum amount that qualifies them for a free drink. As a result, it’s clamping down (p4). But there’s a new initiative that interests us more: Waitrose’s Pick Your Own trial is about power to the people to pick their own promotions.
This could be one of the most forward-thinking moves yet in how to personalise shopping.
The question is whether suppliers are up for playing ball. Funding a 20% reduction being offered for unlimited purchases over three months is quite some tab, especially for high-priced items. Certainly more than the cost of a few coffees gone walkabouts.
Ian Quinn, chief reporter