Wednesday 11 November 2020 6:01 am

Waitrose pledges to keep meat and fish counters open as rivals shutter services

Waitrose has this morning pledged to keep its meat, fish and deli counters open, taking on the supermarkets that have shuttered the services to cut costs amid falling demand.

The up-market grocer said it is committed to the long-term future of its food service counters, and is planning to expand its meat and fish range online at the beginning of next year. 

The move comes after major UK supermarkets have closed the counters in recent months, as customers stick to shopping online or in the aisles.

Sainsbury’s announced last week that it is planning to close all of its fresh food counters to respond to the decline in demand. 

Asda axed the food service counters in January and Tesco closed 90 last year. 

The latest research by Kantar published yesterday showed that the number of supermarket trips involving a visit to the deli, mean or fish counter has fallen by 33 per cent in the past 12 weeks. 

However, the shift does not mean that shoppers are snubbing fresh products altogether, Kantar said.

“In fact the first national lockdown saw record numbers of people buy meat from other sources,” Kantar head of retail and consumer insight Fraser McKevitt said. 

“Over 2m households have visited their local butcher in the past three months, 100,000 more than this time last year.”

Waitrose director of category proposition Jackie Wharton said: “Waitrose is renowned for its service counters and they remain a key reason why many people shop with us.

“Having tripled our slot capacity to over 200,000 orders a week and in light of increased demand for online this year, there is now a huge opportunity for us to offer our counter rand on and we’re excited to relaunch it at the beginning of next year.”

He added: “And having taken the decision to keep our counters open broadly throughout this pandemic and thanks to support from our customers, they are also helping to sustain many of our smallest British suppliers, who otherwise would not have had a route to market this year.”