Waitrose range review

Waitrose is reviewing 30 categories with consultants OC&C.

Waitrose has become the latest major supermarket to hit the reset button on its ranging.

The Grocer can reveal Waitrose has been working with consultants from OC&C on the process, which will see it overhaul 30 categories.

It is understood the programme kicked off earlier this summer but is still in its early stages. Waitrose confirmed the only categories to have completed the review so far are pre-packed cheese and sliced bread, though supplier sources suggest work on the beauty and household categories “had been held up as an exemplar” in initial briefings.

Waitrose is currently selling about 500 fewer SKUs than a year ago according to analysis by The Grocer using Brand View data. However, a Waitrose spokeswoman said this fall was not linked to the current range review.

She added the review was not driven by a desire to cut its SKU count but to get its range “absolutely right for customers”.

Removing duplication was a key part of the process, however. In the case of the sliced bread category, it enabled Waitrose to devote 19% more space to high-growth lines such as seeded loaves.

“Early results indicate very encouraging sales growth,” she added.

“While we may remove some duplication, there will also be cases when additional products are added to meet customer demand, particularly given our focus on driving differentiation by building the proportion of own label and exclusive items.”

The Brand View data suggests the number of wrapped bakery lines is down 3.2% while the number of pre-packed cheese lines fell 10% ­versus a year ago.

Other dairy sub-categories such as yoghurt are understood to be among the next categories to be reset. However, the spokeswoman said it would not discuss timescales and further plans without consulting suppliers first.

“In our category, they are looking at new and differentiated products to fit in with their good-better-best tiering, but the process is hard to follow,” said an ambient supplier. “Is it about being more distinctive, or ‘even more Waitrose’ as they call it, or cutting out lines that don’t sell? They hold up the work that has been done to improve the Waitrose beauty range and household as exemplars. We’re not clear when the work in our category is expected to finish or land in store, or what’s going on in other categories. “

Another supplier from a sales and marketing agency added that a lack of data might be an issue.

“There’s a wonderful opportunity to find new brands and differentiate further. The difficulty for Waitrose is striking the balance between taking out SKUs that simply don’t sell, and therefore generate waste, but also attracting foodie consumers, for whom these smaller-selling products help differentiate and drive them to the store in the first place.”

The reset follows similar projects carried out by both Tesco and Asda. Tesco started the ball rolling in 2015 with Project Reset, in conjunction with Boston Consulting Group. Its success has emboldened Tesco to cut harder and deeper in subsequent range reviews, and it is currently on its fourth iteration.

Asda’s Project Renewal followed a year later, under the watch of Bain & Company, and proved rather less successful, as the aggressive tactics it used landed the Leeds retailer in hot water with the Grocery Code Adjudicator over breaches of the GSCOP code.