Everyone’s talking about: The Waitrose makeover

What’s happening?

Executive director James Bailey is doing a bit of reorganising.

Can you tell him not to move the celeriac remoulade again? I’ve had terrible trouble finding it these past few weeks.

He’s thinking just a little bit bigger than that.

Tell him I found myself forced to resort to the hard stuff.

To drink?

To ungrated celeriac.

And what’s your feedback?

Shelf awareness: Waitrose is having an image rethink thanks to executive director James Bailey

I’ve now got a grater injury.

Noted, but to zoom back out from your salad drawer for a minute…

Yes, sorry, you were saying that Waitrose is getting a makeover. Why?

Forecasts earlier in the year suggested that Marks & Spencer could soon overtake Waitrose’s parent company John Lewis in the rankings of Britain’s largest retailers – and so Bailey has decided it’s time for some sweeping changes.

But the floors look fine to me.

He means that he’s introducing more mini John Lewis outlets into Waitrose supermarkets and acknowledging that shoppers may prefer a modern one-storey building rather than a ‘terribly organised’ shop spread over several floors.

Will he be bringing down the prices along with the roof ridges?

He says he’s done that already.

Yet consumer rights company Which? reckons a basket of shopping at Aldi is still more than 20 per cent cheaper.

Bailey counters that Which? is measuring price rather than value, adding: ‘You’re literally not comparing apples with apples.’

You mean the Waitrose apple is more aspirational?

No! Bailey insists Waitrose isn’t just for middle-class people.

Try telling that to the author and psychotherapist Philippa Perry.

What has she said?

Her contribution to the popular ‘Overheard in Waitrose’ thread on X (formerly Twitter) read: ‘Shall we buy a tin of performative biscuits, or some biscuits we actually want to eat?’

Moving on – you mentioned that the Waitrose floors look clean. If you’ve seen the Holloway Road, North London branch, this might be down to Ingrid Swenson.

Shoppers no longer want a ‘terribly organised’ store 

Is she a cleaner?

Sort of. Since 2014, Swenson has rescued more than 1,500 discarded shopping lists from the store (her local). She peels them off the ground and even rummages around in bins.

Er, why?

Because, she says, someone’s ‘entire world’ can be captured in this ‘single, modest entity’. She’s so keen on these ‘domestic haikus’, in fact, that she’s recently put out a book called Shopping Lists: A Consuming Fascination.

Go on…

It captures everything from the endearing (a child’s note to remember ‘drain unbloker’) to the smart (a list on M&C Saatchi notepaper) and even one written on the back of a script from Silent Witness series 14.

What else?

As may be imagined, there’s a preponderance of eco products alongside many exhortations (mostly by women to men) to buy ‘nice yogurt’.

Why can’t men ever get a shopping list right?

According to Telegraph writer Jane Shilling, history informs us that they can. Michelangelo’s illustrated shopping list of 1518 (‘stewed fennel, wine, bread, herring’) was ‘elegantly drawn in miniature on the back of a letter for the benefit – it is speculated – of an illiterate servant’.

Waitrose 2023 could have supplied all of that.

She also makes mention of a list from 1633 discovered in Kent, requesting ‘2 dozen of Pewter spoon’ and ‘one greate fireshovell for ye nursery’.

Admittedly, that would be harder to fulfil.

Not once those new John Lewis outlets start springing up.


John Lewis’s Ivyline Fireside Companion Set (£134.99) includes a great fire shovel.

So it does – not so many 17th-century-worthy utensils, though. Still, I have just found a set of pewter olive skewers. Do you think they’d be sharp enough to use with…

Raw celeriac?

How did you know?

Call it a wild stab in the veg rack.