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Waitrose IT problem causes empty shelves in supermarkets

The chain says it has resolved the issue, but shoppers are still reporting disruption.

By Matthew Gooding

Supermarket chain Waitrose says it has resolved IT problems which have left shoppers facing empty shelves in supermarkets around the country.

Shoppers at Waitrose have been confronted with empty shelves for the last two weeks following IT problems. (Photo by Gulpa/Shutterstock)

A bungled system update has left the chain’s stores with a shortage of fresh produce, while customers have also reported problems using its app and securing slots for deliveries.

Waitrose, which is part of John Lewis, has 329 stores across the UK.

Waitrose IT issues started over Bank Holiday weekend

Waitrose customers started reporting problems over the May Bank Holiday weekend. A system update took longer than expected, which interfered with the delivery of fresh produce.

Tech Monitor has contacted Waitrose to find out more information, but a spokesperson for the chain told the Daily Telegraph on Friday that the problem had been fixed. “We’re really sorry for the disruption that some customers faced. We’ve fixed the cause of the problem, and have regular daily deliveries going to all our branches,” the spokesperson said. “Many shops now have good availability, and we’re addressing localised issues as quickly as possible.”

However, customers took to social media over the weekend to report that stock of many items remains scarce.

The digital transformation of Waitrose

Waitrose has seen its revenue decline over the last two years from a 2021 peak of £7.04bn. Its most recent financial year, to January 2023, saw it bring in £6.75bn, while the John Lewis Partnership as a whole reported an annual loss of £234m in the same period, as a drop in consumer spending and increased competition from online outlets hit the business hard.

The company introduced a new five-year strategy in 2020, which aims to help it achieve a profit of £400m by 2025, and has put improving its digital offering at the heart of this plan. “Digital and technology capabilities have been identified as critical to support the partnership plan strategy to transform the business,” the company’s most recent annual report says.

As part of this strategy, John Lewis appointed its first chief transformation and technology officer, Zak Mian, in November. He joined the company from Lloyd’s Banking Group, where he had been responsible for digital transformation, and now heads up technology, change and transformation activity at John Lewis, as well as overseeing the teams that support it. 

John Lewis Partnership spent £112.3m on software in 2023, according to its most recent annual report, down on the 2022 figure of £145.4m. Newly purchased packages “covered a range of selling, support, administration and IT infrastructure applications, with useful economic lives ranging from three to seven years,” the report says.

Read more: Rapid grocery delivery is at a tipping point

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