The discount brand, launched in 2009 to help Waitrose’s core customer base cope with the recession without having to downgrade one of their Range Rovers, was proving extremely successful. This success appears to have come at a price though, with the unwanted side effect of attracting the working class.
‘At first it worked fine, our regular shoppers were delighted with the new range, and common people were still put off by the Waitrose branding’ explained marketing director Rupert Thomas, ‘but as we advertised more, and made the mistake of including the prices of products in our TV commercials, we began to see some undesirable characters appearing in our aisles, enticed in by the prospect of finding a tin of beans for under £5, which they previously hadn’t expected from us. One horrid man even came in wearing a Hi-Vis vest looking for a sandwich. It was awful.’
The popularity of the ‘essential’ range had seen it quickly expand to include affordable versions of many foodstuffs and household items. To make matters worse Waitrose also starting pointing out that many of their prices were the same as those found in Tescos, attracting even more lower class shoppers and alienating many of their existing clientele. ‘It was so demeaning finding out that I wasn’t paying any more for my groceries than a common chav’ moaned former Waitrose customer Emily Hamilton-Brown. ‘I’ve gone back to doing my weekly shop at Fortnum & Mason now, just to make sure I don’t accidentally purchase something that’s buy-one-get-one-free.’
‘Hopefully withdrawing the products and stopping the adverts will stop any additional commoners coming in,’ continued Mr Thomas, ‘but we still have the problem of getting rid of the ones that have already started shopping with us. They’re still turning up, wandering around looking a bit lost and not buying anything. We’re thinking of putting up signs outside pointing out that Lidl down the road has some great deals on, or maybe we’ll just put down some traps baited with chicken nuggets so we can catch them humanely and release them in Asda.’