Waitrose and John Lewis are planning to roll out a chain of exclusive in-store foodhalls in John Lewis stores across the country in what they claim will be a unique format for the UK.
Waitrose managing director Steven Esom said the opening of the first foodhall in the basement of John Lewis's flagship Oxford Street store in London next year was likely to lead to a roll-out. "If it is as successful as we hope, there will be other opportunities - we have 26 John Lewis department stores. Where the two brands have come together before, it has worked."
The venture has been underpinned by 18 months of research throughout the world, added Esom. "We're trying to redefine the foodhall. This will be the first of this format in the UK and the first time two major brands have joined up in this way."
Service and presentation will set it apart from competitors such as Selfridges and Fortum & Mason, he said. Seasonality of food, along with provenance and quality, will be central to the offer, which only includes Waitrose-branded food. The chain would also stock some super-premium exclusive products, not sold in Waitrose but Waitrose-branded. But Esom added that the format would combine the experience of a foodhall with the convenience of grocery shopping, and would include products like tins of beans.
Aesthetically it would be a totally different proposition from Waitrose, said Esom, catering for the very top end of the market.
Although he would not reveal details of the shop's specifications, which are being kept under wraps, Esom said the layout would not be constrained as traditional supermarkets had been. In addition, pack sizes would be smaller to suit the market and all products common to Waitrose's supermarkets would be sold at its standard price.
Although the food will be Waitrose-branded, it will be considered a John Lewis format and will not contribute to Waitrose's turnover.