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    Waitrose to open more convenience stores as group is ‘back on track’

    (Jack Taylor/Getty Images/File Photo)

    Supermarket group Waitrose is “back on track” and “more fit for the future”, the outgoing chair of John Lewis Sharon White has insisted, saying that an improving financial position will enable it to spend money on refurbishments and opening of more convenience stores.

    White, who will retire as chair of the John Lewis Partnership in September, said the upmarket Waitrose brand was “underrepresented in convenience” and that convenience sector is a top expansion priority now.

    In an interview with The Telegraph, she stated that the convenience market – in which it operates the Little Waitrose brand – will be top priority. Until now she has had to rely on partnerships with Deliveroo and UberEats to address growing demand for small, quick shops.

    “We are underrepresented in convenience,” she said. “We’re basically driving convenience through online. I think having a bigger presence for Waitrose locally and with more local ranges is a massive opportunity for us.”

    She added “We’re back on track and much more fit for the future. This is a launch pad for the next phase of growth for the business and to be frank we’re in as solid a position as we could be given the five years we’ve had.”

    Waitrose is also set to refurbish 80 of its stores as part of a near-£1bn investment over the next three years and also open its first new shops in almost 10 years.

    White said that the retailer was working out “how we get the right balance between service and productivity” at the revamped stores.

    However, she stated, “You won’t see Waitrose stores completely stripped of partners and relying on self-checkout.”

    White added that Waitrose has suffered in the brutally competitive grocery market with tired stores in which it has been unable to properly invest and it should be transformative over the next few years.

    “I’m looking forward to what Waitrose is going to be doing over the next two to three years,” she said. “The big thing is we’ve now got the cash to invest in the future of the business. Across the two brands [John Lewis and Waitrose] last year we generated something like £210m more, which means we’ve got the cash to invest into growth this year.”

    Some 80 Waitrose stores are scheduled to get upgrades in the next three years. The outlet in Sudbury, Suffolk was first to get the treatment with a new layout and technology. As part of the investment programme finally underway, however, Waitrose will open new stores for the first time in seven years.

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