June 3, 2021

Changing Customer Behaviour: Essential Waitrose

March 10, 2021, Have you ever wondered why you shop where you shop? What exactly makes us want to buy products from a particular brand? Let’s take a closer look at Waitrose and how they managed to transform customer behaviour during the UK recession in 2009.

Customer Perception and Customer Behaviour

Waitrose was being damaged by the perception that it was more expensive than its competitors. Former Managing Director Mark Price stated “the perception of our customers is that we are 25% more expensive than Tesco or Sainsbury’s. We know that is not the case – we match 2,500 products against Sainsbury’s prices, but we haven’t been able to get people to believe that.”

This led to a reduced basket size and customers questioning if they could actually afford to shop at Waitrose. During this time, competitors such as Tesco, ASDA and Sainsbury’s were known for their low prices. However, if Waitrose pursued the route of ‘low prices’, they risked damaging their reputation and credentials. They had to find a way to change customer behaviour and perception towards Waitrose.

Introduction of ‘Essential Waitrose’ Product Range

Prior to the launch, customers were purchasing one less product as a result of the recession.

This led to Waitrose introducing the ‘Essential Waitrose’ product range, where they championed quality products at affordable prices.

Despite the recession, this campaign was highly successful as Waitrose prevented customers from drifting to cheaper supermarkets. Waitrose rode the recession well and 13% of their sales came directly from their own-label products. Likewise, Waitrose’s market share grew by 4% over 12 weeks which led to the expansion of the essential Waitrose product range later that year.

The essential Waitrose range reframed the entire Waitrose product offering and provided their customers with a genuine reason to not shop elsewhere. They achieved customer behavioural changes and most importantly, they were able to change the customer perception that they were more upmarket in comparison to their competitors.

Waitrose Voted Supermarket of The Year 2017

In 2017, Which? awarded Waitrose with the title of Supermarket of the Year 2017. They pointed out that it was Waitrose’s high levels of customer service which led to them toppling Iceland and Marks & Spencers.

The Essential Waitrose product range also won plaudits as customers enjoyed their own-label goods and products.

Customer Behaviour Waitrose in 2021

Aldi were recently named Supermarket of the Year 2021, with Waitrose being in joint-third place.

Which? stated that consumers primarily searched for value for money at supermarkets which was the key reason why Aldi was number one. Waitrose scored two 5 star ratings for their store appearance and quality of produce.

However, Waitrose scored 2 stars for their value for money. This leaves us wondering, has Waitrose’s customer perception changed again? Is this a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic? How can Waitrose change customer behaviour and encourage customers to shop there again?

Let us know in the comments below!


Clews, M., 2009. Essentials campaign boosts Waitrose – Marketing Week. [online] Marketing Week. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 March 2021].

Simmonds, E., 2021. Best and worst supermarkets of 2021 revealed – Which? News. [online] Which? News. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 March 2021].

Smithers, R., 2017. Waitrose voted UK’s best supermarket. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 March 2021].

Waitrose, 2009. Introducing essential Waitrose – Own Label with a Difference. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 3 March 2021].

Wray, R., 2021. Waitrose sales grow as recession fears fade. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 March 2021].