Ocado has promised the “best ever Christmas” is ahead for its food retail joint venture with Marks & Spencer thanks to booming demand for online grocery delivery.
Customer order numbers each week were up 9% in the 13 weeks to 28 November compared with 2020 thanks to a 22% rise in active customer numbers, according to a trading update.
Ocado has been one of the winners during the coronavirus pandemic, as lockdowns prompted a wave of customers to order groceries online for the first time.
The rise in orders has been accompanied by pressures such as a shortage of workers and capacity constraints as Ocado races to build more warehouses to keep up with demands of consumers. The company said it would spend £50m more than they expected on investments in order to stay ahead.
The pressures meant that retail revenues from Ocado and Marks & Spencer’s retail joint venture fell by 3.6% during the period compared with 2020, although they remained nearly a third higher than in 2019. However, average weekly orders of 375,100 were significantly higher than the 345,000 in the same period in 2020.
Ocado nevertheless expressed that they saw “strong momentum in underlying demand”. For 2022 it expects “mid-teens” sales growth as it opens a new automated warehouse in Bicester, Oxfordshire, and ramps up deliveries from Purfleet, Essex, and Andover in Hampshire, where a warehouse suffered significant damage from a fire in 2019.
Ocado claimed a victory in a long-running battle against US robotic warehouse rival AutoStore. Of five patents claimed by AutoStore, the International Trade Commission found that three were invalid, one was not infringed and another was abandoned the night before trial, according to the ever growing online grocery firm.