Waitrose is planning a bold makeover of its loyalty card scheme by allowing consumers to choose which products they receive promotional offers on.

The ‘Pick Your Own Offers’ scheme, which is currently being trialled at five Waitrose stores, will give shoppers armed with a myWaitrose card a long list of branded and own-label products to select their favourite 10 items from. They will then receive 20% off each of those products for a three-month period, no matter how many times they buy them.

Waitrose told The Grocer it wanted to increase the appeal of the myWaitrose card, which has attracted 5.4 million members since its 2011 launch. Pick Your Own would cover products across fresh, grocery, non-food, branded and own brand, it said.

It added that the trial was in addition to its myWaitrose discounts, which launched in January 2013 with 100 products and has now seen about 500 products offered at a 10% discount. It has also run periodic 20%-off wine offers for myWaitrose members.

A Waitrose spokeswoman said the trial was about giving customers a new mechanic of their choosing, on top of the card’s other benefits, such as free newspapers and tea or coffee.

“We are trialling the new promotional scheme in five branches,” she said. “We always trial new ideas and concepts before making commercial decisions. If customers visit non-selected branches, or branches in other areas, their offers will not work.”

The chain refused to comment on speculation suppliers had been asked to fund Pick Your Own. It is understood to have caused controversy among higher-value suppliers, but to have been widely greeted by suppliers of lower-value goods with less of a price gap to fund.

The spokeswoman added: “It’s across all prices. The trial is about giving customers choice and not just high-end.”

David Sables, CEO of Sentinel Management Consultants, said despite the success of Waitrose in differentiating its card from other rewards, such as Tesco’s Clubcard and Sainsbury’s Brand Match, it needed more of a genuine promotional mechanic linked to purchase.

“Waitrose has been the only retailer to genuinely differentiate and has held up the best of the mults by doing so for a period at least,” Sables said.

“The fact that it had £1.50 Easter eggs discounted to £1.35 for cardholders in store was a good initiative, too, rather than the protracted delayed points-based reward from the other loyalty cards. But the mechanic needs work. They need to tie it in to purchase, and coffee is a barrier to shopping.”

…while cutting out coffee ‘abuse’

Waitrose says it is cracking down on customers exploiting its free coffee and tea offer.

The supermarket, which strongly denies reports that it is losing £150,000 a week from the scheme, has already brought in restrictions so shoppers in its cafés have to purchase food with their free drink.

The Grocer has learned some stores have now told shoppers they have to queue at customer services to register their purchase before filling their cups, amid reports that some have been regularly collecting drinks for their friends.

“The free tea and coffee is still very much part of the scheme and is very popular,” said a spokeswoman. “We are talking about a small minority of people who have been abusing it.”

“The terms of myWaitrose have not changed,” she added. “The scheme has delivered strong incremental sales.”