An Extra Something For the Long Drive Home
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine
The principle isn’t new but the player is.
British supermarket, Waitrose, has decided to hit the highway by opening
two convenience stores at Welcome Break, the U.K.’s second largest motorway
According to the Independent, "Waitrose
has signed a franchise agreement with Welcome Break to grab a slice of
the motorway food market that M&S has in effect made its own since
launching the Simply Food store in a Moto site in 2003."
Since the first U.K. service station opened
in 1959, a great deal has changed. The Independent says Neil Saunders,
a consulting director at the retail consultancy Verdict, attributes improvements
in what were generally
"pretty appalling" places with poor quality products and service
as well as extortionate prices largely to "service-orientated chains
going in there, such as the restaurants KFC and McDonald’s, and Marks &
Going head to head with Marks
& Spencer may be good for drivers who will have increased choice and
temptation. There is no danger of competition from larger supermarkets, however,
as the Highways Agency prohibits motorway service areas (MSAs) from building
sites bigger than 5,000 sq. ft. on one side of a road.
Waitrose’s objective, according to its commercial
director, Richard Hodgson, is "to grow our brand and make it significantly
more accessible to people." Following the trial, more outlets are
expected although Mr. Hodgson said not all service areas would be suitable. The
Financial Times reports that the units, about a sixth of the size of
a typical Waitrose store, will stock over 850 product lines, made up of
food traditionally associated with travel, such as sandwiches, snacks and
soft drinks, as well as convenience foods, such as ready meals and essential
groceries, from a combination of Waitrose own and other brands.
M&S is also continuing to expand, having
just opened its 28th Simply Food inside an MSA although Mr. Hodgson said, "We
are not gunning for M&S; we are gunning for more customers wherever
they come from… it is about making good, quality food accessible to
Discussion questions: Do highway service
areas present an opportunity for grocers? What do you think of the potential
for U.S. supermarkets to extend into c-store concepts, either alongside
highways or elsewhere?
- Waitrose tracks M&S on motorway – Independent
- Waitrose to open service station shops – Financial