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Ocado expected to impose rationing on more products | Business


Ocado is expected to increase rationing on its site when it reopens on Saturday as it tries to cope with overwhelming demand for grocery home deliveries.

The online grocer is already limiting sales of about 500 products but signalled that was likely to increase as it sought to “ensure a fairer distribution of our capacity” to shoppers.

Ocado stopped taking orders on Wednesday and will not start taking new orders until the weekend. All its delivery slots had already been fully booked.

“The decision to close was not because we could not cope,” said the group’s finance director, Duncan Tatton-Brown. “The website closed so we could make changes to the code that supports it to enable us to share our capacity in a more fair and accessible way. You can imagine some people are ordering a much larger basket and it’s only right for us to consider a fairer allocation. We need to find a way to make it fairer.”

Tatton-Brown declined to give further details – other supermarkets have already removed multi-buys amid panic-buying that has stripped shelves – because it wanted to “communicate with customers in a coherent way”.

The changes being made will also seek to support vulnerable Britons who have been forced to self-isolate. “We will try and do the right thing for those who are vulnerable, be that because of age or because of some health condition,” he added. “One of the reasons for closing the site is to do more of that.”

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The retailer has been inundated with orders in recent weeks, leading to the introduction of a queuing system on the site. “We were experiencing four times the demand of our highest-ever peak,” said Tatton-Brown.

“Our systems thought they were experiencing a denial of service attack. We have had hours in the week when we have had 100 times the normal level of transactions on the website. This is really unprecedented levels of demand.”


Ocado said despite the images of empty supermarket shelves on social media, there were no serious grocery shortages at present. “We are able to deliver 98% of goods that customers have ordered. Customers can get what they want and suppliers can give us what the customer wants.”

Waitrose announced that it was closing all its cafes and rotisseries and temporarily suspending coffee-making, as it joins other supermarkets in tightening restrictions on purchases.

From today, shoppers are limited to three items of any specific grocery and a maximum of two packets of toilet roll per customer in shops.

At the same time, Waitrose has set up a £1m community support fund that staff in local stores can use to develop services such as local deliveries for the self-isolating, the vulnerable and the elderly, or sending boxes of staples to local care homes and community groups.

Waitrose is also joining other supermarkets in allocating the first hour after opening as dedicated to the elderly, the vulnerable and those who look after them.



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