Waitrose & Partners is to extend its ‘Unpacked’ test in Oxford beyond the original end date of August 18 – and has committed to introducing elements of the concept into three more shops by the end of the year, after an overwhelmingly positive response.
The supermarket chain transformed its Botley Road shop in Oxford in June by taking more than 200 products out of their packaging to test how customers might be prepared to shop differently, with the aim of saving thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic.
The test, now into its ninth week, set out to get as much feedback as possible and more than 7,000 customers have provided comments through its in-store feedback walls, customer interviews, dedicated website page Waitrose.com/Unpacked and social media using #WaitroseUnpacked.
While the original 11-week test has not finished, the findings so far give the retailer confidence that the concept can be a success elsewhere.
Waitrose & Partners will introduce the Unpacked test into three more shops which have been selected so it can be included as part of already-planned refurbishments this year. Unpacked will now form part of the new-look stores to be unveiled at Cheltenham in Gloucestershire in September and Abingdon and Wallingford, both in Oxfordshire, in November.
All three shops will have a dedicated refillable zone. This will include dispensers for dried products, frozen ‘pick and mix’, coffee, wine and beer refills, as well as Ecover detergent and washing up liquid refillables. Waitrose & Partners aims to extend the refillable range of products available at the three shops following customer feedback, but has not finalised plans at this stage. There will still be a wide range of Unpacked fruit and vegetables, although it will need to change to reflect the season and where the produce comes from.
The Oxford test is already helping the supermarket to understand what works for its customers. The Veg Kitchen was not as popular as some of the other concepts, and shoppers preferred to bring their own containers rather than borrow-a-box. Both concepts will therefore be removed from Botley Road by the end of August and will not feature in the three additional shops.
Waitrose & Partners Head of CSR Tor Harris said: “The reaction to Waitrose Unpacked has been incredible, with the invaluable feedback from thousands of customers giving us the confidence that they are prepared to change how they shop with us.
“We are keen to take the Unpacked concept forward and these additional tests will help us achieve this, as well as understand its commercial viability. Through working with our customers and suppliers, we will continue to learn and develop ideas which have the potential to be rolled out more widely.”