Waitrose’s unique ‘package-free’ trial will resonate with a localist consumer base, says GlobalData

Following the news that Waitrose & Partners is trialling a dedicated refillable zone and a frozen ‘pick and mix’ proposition at a store in Oxford, Thomas Brereton, retail analyst for GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view: “Although only a trial, this announcement shows a determined step from Waitrose to meet its ambitious commitments to eliminating unnecessary plastic and packaging, building on the £1m fund pledged in May to five organisations at the forefront of plastic reduction and its backing of the UK Plastics Pact in March.

“Sustainability will certainly be one of retail’s buzzwords for the next decade, with the ‘Blue Planet effect’ rapidly changing consumers’ opinions on issues of sustainability. GlobalData’s Monthly Tracker survey for March showed 94% of consumers believe it is the responsibility of retailers to act sustainably, and 80% believe retailers are currently not doing enough to address such issues. Strong sustainability credentials are also a more important issue for Waitrose than for other retailers, with the most sustainability conscious demographics (generally older, female and more affluent shoppers) significantly overlapping with Waitrose’s core customer base, where over half of shoppers are 55+ years old.

“But long-term success of the trial will depend on Waitrose’s ability to integrate these novel concepts in store. Waitrose must ensure that other points of differentiation (the quality credentials of the products, instore visual merchandising etc.) are not compromised as a result – although sustainability is of growing concern to shoppers, it lags behind criteria of customer service and quality in importance when choosing a supermarket.”

William Grimwade, consumer analyst for GlobalData, offers his view: “Consumers are likely to enjoy the more personal and less mainstream experience of filling your own refillable containers, as 64% of UK consumers say their product choices are shaped by how enjoyable/unique a product is. Furthermore, 59% of UK consumers’ choices are shaped by how familiar and trust-worthy a product feels.

“Refillable shopping could give Waitrose a localist, friendly appeal over other nearby supermarkets. On top of this, excessive plastic use has become an increasingly important issue to consumers and 65% of UK consumers see refillable/reusable containers as a factor in environmentally friendly packaging.”