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First day of Ocado M&S deliveries marred by cancellations | Business

Ocado is facing criticism from delivery customers over last-minute order cancellations as the online grocer admitted it was struggling to cope on the first day of its new service with Marks & Spencer.

The company blamed a “surge in demand” for what it said was a “small number of cancellations” as it kicked off the partnership with M&S, which ends nearly 20 years of delivering Waitrose groceries.

Numerous shoppers said on social media that their orders had been cancelled within hours of the expected delivery despite having been booked for weeks. Some said they could not get a new delivery slot for nearly a week and others mentioned a high number of substituted items. A number said they were planning to switch to Waitrose.com.

One shopper wrote on Twitter: “Emailed an hour before my delivery time this [morning] to say the order isn’t coming. Why bother placing orders 3 weeks ahead when Ocado’s stock systems don’t work? ‘Priority customer’? Evidently not.”

Another said: “Big day but you’ve cancelled my order that has been booked for 4 weeks! Long time customer who now can’t get a delivery until Sunday … shocking service!”

“My order was cancelled last night too! Really annoying – I think it’s the first cancellation in 15 years … and on the first day of M&S too. I’ll be going to Waitrose to do my shopping now,” another said.

A spokesperson for Ocado said: “The M&S launch has been incredibly popular. We have seen a surge in demand for M&S products in the run-up to launch which has impacted a very small number of orders today. The vast majority of customers are unaffected and will be delivered as normal.”

It offered those with missed deliveries a £30 voucher and “sincere apologies” for having to wait.

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The problems will be embarrassing for Ocado’s chief executive Tim Steiner, who gave a bullish interview over the weekend suggesting that Waitrose would struggle to cope with selling online once the two companies parted ways. Until Tuesday, the supermarket sold about 4,000 different product lines to Ocado but also ran its own Waitrose.com delivery service.

“They [Waitrose] have done an advert saying ‘we’ll take it from here’ or something,” Steiner said. “Well, they can’t take it from here because they don’t have the technology, the infrastructure or the systems.”

Waitrose, part of the John Lewis Partnership, has almost trebled online sales through Waitrose.com to £1bn after building a new distribution centre and picking groceries from more stores. Last week it announced a 12-week trial with Deliveroo for speedy deliveries in less than 30 minutes.

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