Ocado began delivering Marks & Spencer products on Tuesday, as its partnership with Waitrose came to an end after almost two decades.
The launch appeared to face some teething problems, however. Ocado blamed a surge in demand for M&S goods for what it said were a “very small number” of cancelled orders this week. It had faced criticism from customers on social media, but said the vast majority of orders were unaffected.
Supermarket delivery firm Ocado announced a joint venture with high street giant M&S last summer, paving the way for deliveries to begin this month. Ocado had partnered with Waitrose since 2002.
M&S said in a statement it marked the first time its entire M&S Food range had ever been available to buy online, with 6,000 items on sale including 750 new products. A further 800 clothing and home lines have also been placed on Ocado’s site.
Stuart Machin, managing director of M&S Food said taking its full food range online was “transformative.”
READ MORE: M&S to axe around 7,000 jobs
Melanie Smith, CEO of Ocado Retail, said: “We are excited to be bringing the greatest range of products to loyal and new customers across the UK with the winning combination of the country’s fastest growing grocer and the nation’s most beloved food brand.”
Ocado, which has three UK distribution centres, claims to be the “world’s largest dedicated online supermarket.” The tie-up is said to have boosted its offering to more than 50,000 products, “double that of the next largest grocery retailer.”
Asked about complaints over cancelled orders, an Ocado spokesperson 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.
“We would like to thank our customers for giving M&S such a big welcome and sincere apologies to any customers having to wait a bit longer.”
The deal means products from John Lewis-owned Waitrose are no longer available from Ocado. Waitrose said in a statement online that its products remained available via its own website.
Waitrose said when the tie-up began in January 2002, it had “needed the help of an established network” in the shape of Ocado because of its relatively small size at the time.
“The supply relationship has worked well for almost 20 years, but now both parties are ready to go their own way,” it added.
Waitrose announced a new three-month delivery trial with Amazon-backed Deliveroo last week, which it said would be available to more than half a million households.
It comes after a difficult period for Marks & Spencer, which has been hit hard by the closure of stores during lockdown and weaker footfall since restrictions eased.
M&S chiefs announced 7,000 job losses last month, confirming a major shakeup of its stores, support centres and management over the next three months.