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#107 Little Waitrose

October 24, 2011

Hey, man! We don't believe in those, trad, uncool old aisle labels. This ain't your daddy's Waitrose! Your daddy's Waitrose is in Bury St Edmund's.

Yeah, they went there. Little Waitrose is the new Waitrose brand for small urban shops. You’ll find it outposts appearing on high streets and in garages. It’s a new thing in the world, in the sense that it’s got slightly more Marks-and-Spencery feel to it. But there’s more than that.

Little Waitrose is younger and hipper. It doesn’t have boring names for sections like ‘Groceries’ or ‘Ready meals’ or ‘Dairy’. That’s sooo 2010. They’re called ‘Supper starts here’ and ‘Meals made easy for you’ and ‘From the dairy’ and so on. Perhaps the oddest thing is that the self-service checkouts have a different voice to the one you find in all other supermarkets – which is surprisingly unsettling, given they haven’t been around for long. This one is a younger, hipper, female voice. Little Waitrose thinks of itself as a people person. A winsome sort of store.

But wait! Waitrose isn’t meant to be winsome! Waitrose is rather severe, in a lovable, honest, 1970s kind of way. It sneers at the likes of Iceland being all familiar, and sticks to what it knows best: being excellent and slightly unaffordable. So ‘Little Waitrose’ is the marketing equivalent of an elderly aunt having too much sherry on Christmas day and insisting on doing a ‘little dance’ at 11am, while you hide behind a torn sheet of wrapping paper. You can almost hear it cooing ‘ICKLE WAITROSE’ in a toe-curling fake little girl’s voice. Who let Waitrose think it could be winsome?

Yesterday, we visited a motorway service station which sported a tiny branch of Waitrose. The shop was hardly bigger than a booth, but it had no cutesy signs on the walls, no self-service machines. It was a little Waitrose, but it wasn’t a Little Waitrose. Poor shop.

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