waitrose While Youre Away

Source: Waitrose

Waitrose’s dramatic split from online partner Today Development Partners followed a clash of cultures, a source has told The Grocer.

Just four months into a deal that was supposed to triple the size of Waitrose’s dotcom business, the John Lewis Partnership announced yesterday (12 September) that it would not go ahead.

The deal saw Waitrose link up with new e-commerce venture TDP - set up by Ocado co-founder Jon Faiman and Google X chief business officer Mo Gawdat - to develop three automated customer fulfilment centres (CFCs) and to enhance the online customer experience.

But in a statement accompanying yesterday’s results, which saw the John Lewis Partnership post a £25.9m loss in the first six months of the year, JLP announced the end of the relationship. 

A TDP source suggested expectations differed over what could be achieved and how quickly.

“A lot of it is about cultures, the speed at which they expect us to work, how capable they actually are in these areas,” the source said. 

“Most Waitrose people joined when they were 18 or 21 and have spent their whole life there. Getting some guy who used to work at Goldman Sachs to tell them what to do is slightly problematic.” 

Yesterday’s statement from JLP said: “In mid-May, we announced a proposal to explore opportunities around automated online fulfilment with TDP. We have recently decided not to continue with that relationship and will instead pursue our online ambitions utilising existing expertise across the partnership.”

In an exclusive interview with The Grocer, MD Rob Collins would not be drawn on the reasons for the split but vowed it would not disrupt Waitrose’s ambitious online plans.

“Do not interpret this as any sort of shift away from our determination to triple the size of the online businesses,” he said. “We are making good progress.”

“We have come out of a relationship with Ocado that we have had for the past two decades.

“We have third party partners and relationships with partners all across the globe and some of those have been around for decades.

“With TDP we were exploring an opportunity and we have decided we don’t’ want to pursue it.”

Faiman said yesterday the split would not derail TDP’s plans: “Our business is solid and growing, new people are joining us and our path is clear. We are building a business that will have a number of different partners in different markets and this was always going to be the case.

“We enjoyed working with Waitrose until our partnership ended back in July and we wish them the very best in the future. Whilst they are an astounding business, we are very excited about our plans with other partners.”