Waitrose to scrap free newspapers for loyalty-card customers

Anger among scheme members as perk ends on 22 February, less than a year after retailer stopped free coffee

Waitrose is ditching free newspapers for loyalty card-holders from 22 February in the latest example of supermarkets cutting costs amid surging inflation.

Members of the myWaitrose scheme can claim back the cost of a range of newspapers if they spend £10 with the supermarket.

In a letter to its 8.5 million scheme members, Waitrose said it would replace the current deal with more personalised offers, which would change each week.

A spokesperson said: “We’re improving the myWaitrose programme to offer customers personalised discounts on the products they buy most.

“While the newspaper offer was enjoyed by some of our customers, in reality it was only being used by around 5% of members. The new approach will mean that all members can make greater savings by receiving benefits tailored to them.”

The change caused outrage among some of the the supermarket’s shoppers, coming just under a year after the retailer stopped offering free coffees to MyWaitrose members in stores. The retailer said the coffee deal was paused during the pandemic but did not give a date when it may return.

One shopper tweeted: “What?! Waitrose are stopping their #myWaitrose newspaper offer!! And their list of consolation offers are not comparable! The paper with the myWaitrose Saturday shop has been the cornerstone of our family’s weekend for YEARS! Not happy with this at all. I want to know why?!”

Several loyalty-card holders said the free paper was their main reason for membership.

One tweeted: “Austerity has finally arrived at Waitrose No more free newspapers with your shopping! I used to walk down to Waitrose a few times a week for top ups and the free newspaper was a real bonus, now the local Tesco will do just fine.”

Supermarkets are searching for ways to cut costs to try to keep a lid on shop prices, as inflation hits food and non-food items in the UK.

Heavy competition across the industry, particularly from the discounters Aldi and Lidl, is forcing other supermarkets to keep down prices despite rising costs of basic commodities and ingredients, transport, energy and fuel.

This week, Tesco announced it would stop selling music and films in its supermarkets by the end of this month, shut deli counters, close down its small Jack’s chain and stop night shifts in dozens of stores in an attempt to keep costs down.

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The latest shake-up at Waitrose follows a series of tweaks to the terms of its loyalty-card scheme over the years.

In 2017 it required scheme members to buy something before pouring themselves a free hot drink. That came after long queues formed at its self-service machines as the original generous deal enabled even those who were not making a purchase to pick up a free drink.

Before that, Waitrose told those who wanted to a free hot drink in one of its cafes that they also had to buy a “treat” – such as a sandwich, cake or biscuit.

The latest change to the loyalty scheme may also be a blow for the newspaper industry, with redemptions accounting for up to 10% of some titles’ weekend sales in the supermarket, according to the trade journal RN.

RN quoted one industry insider saying that Waitrose pick-ups were particularly important for weekend sales of the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Sunday Times.


Sarah Butler

The GuardianTramp

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