/ Shopping

Has Ocado’s switch to M&S worked for you?

It’s been three months since Marks and Spencer became available on Ocado. Is it still a draw, or are you shopping online elsewhere?

To much fanfare at the start of September, Marks & Spencer products became available for delivery on Ocado, ending its long-standing arrangement with Waitrose. 

At the time shoppers were told that not much would change – Waitrose products would have an equivalent available from M&S.  

Which? research also demonstrated that people would save money – spending £2.74 less on M&S-branded products than they would on the Waitrose equivalent

So a different brand, but a similar shopping experience. Three months on though, is this still the case?

Price and selection may vary

There seems to be a difference between M&S and, well…. M&S. Back in October, shoppers noticed how prices on some M&S items were different in store than on Ocado

In addition to price changes, community member Alfa says she’s noticed the selection on Ocado appears to have changed as well. She told us that some brands have disappeared, while others have been replaced.

She’s also noticed some M&S products increased in price after three weeks. Alfa’s now decided to get a regular Waitrose delivery once a month alongside Ocado in order to account for some of her regular products not being available.

Still delivering for you?

If you’ve shopped with Ocado before, how has the M&S changeover been for you? Has it been a positive experience to get M&S products delivered, or have you started looking at alternatives from other supermarkets?  

Ocado was a popular option for many who shopped for groceries online during the spring national lockdown. 

When we asked back in July though, most of you told us that you’d be returning to the shops when the pandemic eases.

Now that restrictions are somewhat easing depending on where you live, have you been continuing to shop for groceries online, or have you been returning to the shops?

Comments

I have sung the praises of Ocado ever since I started shopping there in 2007 and have always thought they put their customers at the heart of their operation. With food intolerances and allergies, their extensive range made food shopping a whole lot easier and Waitrose products fitted nicely alongside the rest of the ranges, many of who are small businesses you don’t see in other supermarkets.

But then along came M&S.

I now feel the supermarket where I loved to shop has been bulldozed by M&S. They made a big fanfare of supplying equivalent products to Waitrose at the same or lower prices, but 3 weeks after they joined Ocado, there were many price increases of 5% on their products.

A expression that has been around for many years: Marks & Spencer don’t understand their customers. That expression could not be truer now, and it is a great pity M&S didn’t try to understand Ocado customers before bulldozing their way in and making such drastic changes.

Many branded products have disappeared, some replaced by M&S own brands: Surcare, Kirsty’s and Baxters that are no longer stocked, some Marriage’s (organic white bread flour) and Delamere (spreadable goats butter) . . . all products that satisfy medical dietary necessities not fads, and brands that I trust. You never know what is inside a supermarket branded product and who manufactured it this week, so I tend to avoid them.

Perhaps this Dietary and Lifestyle image taken from ready meals shows how M&S cater for people with medical needs and why I have never been able to shop there. From the 18 choices available, M&S cater for just 4.

Alfa – I had not appreciated that Halal was a medical need any more than Kosher is.

I have always found M&S to be extremely selective and not consistently reliable in what they will and will not sell on a long-term basis so we find it difficult to build up any loyalty towards them. They appear to drop lines on a whim presumably because they cannot compete or make enough profit.

We do use M&S Food for top-up shopping, treats and specialities, but would not consider placing a regular food order with them. Overall we like the choice of Good, Better, Best across a product category, plus the branded goods against own-label products, that you get with the big supermarkets.

Your are right John, they are not all medical needs but they are choices people make and Ocado have put a lot of effort into supplying products to meet customers needs and the information to make them easier to find. But I can see that effort is being chipped away as M&S get their 50% way.

Sticking with ready meals, if you filter to only Milk Free products, there is not a single M&S product in the results. If you filter to only Vegan there are 32 M&S products in the results. Vegan products cannot contain milk, so they should all have been in the results for milk free.

Milk-free doesn’t mean meat-free and there is no substitute for Kirsty’s who have been kicked out, still Waitrose still sell them plus a few other products I miss, so I get a delivery from there about once a month now.

In-store M&S, I have bought fruit and veg when passing as it is usually good quality, meat is usually expensive and in sizes that don’t appeal, and ready-made convenience foods usually have too much sugar and contain milk products so I just avoid them. I have bought the odd ready-meal but they have never been anything special and I’ve always thought them over-priced for what you get. Online, I was recently supplied with an M&S white cabbage the size of an orange !!!

Like you, I could never use them as my only source of food.

We have used Sainsbury’s delivery service for a couple of years now, initially for the basic commodities and provisions but more recently for nearly all our food shopping as well. We have acquired the art of successful shopping and are pleased with the results. We have never had any difficulty getting slots, generally get 95% of what we order and sometimes everything, and are pleased with the quality of service from the pickers and delivery drivers. We normally choose ‘green’ slots and rarely pay for a delivery. We order about every twelve to fourteen days and pay about £150 on average [which usually includes a few special items from the drinks and household departments]. We would not previously have considered switching to Ocado and are unlikely to do so now as M&S imposes its regime.

By chance, we were passing a new branch of Lidl recently and decided to go inside for a look. We were very impressed and bought a few things. I would say the quality of selected items is generally in the range of Waitrose and M&S but at much lower prices. I have heard they are trialling a delivery operation at some of their stores. That will certainly put the cat among the penguins.

I have never used Ocado because I preferred to visit shops. Prior to the first lockdown in March I registered with Ocado, simply because I had vouchers for free delivery. For months they never let me place an order, instead prioritising their regular customers. Fortunately I have been well supplied by Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose who seem to have recognised that we all need to eat even if our names don’t appear on the government list of clinically extremely vulnerable.

Ocado eventually contacted me to say that they would now accept orders. Sorry but I have made other arrangements, and furthermore Ocado’s prices do not appeal to me. It won’t affect me that they have switched their allegiance from Waitrose to Marks & Spencer.

I do appreciate Alfa’s point of view and would like to see all supermarkets paying attention to the fact that many suffer from food intolerances and allergies.

Ocado has a lot of making up to do. At the moment, I’ll stick with them until the Covid-19 situation improves, but really, they are no longer my favourite company.

1) I had an Ocado Reserved delivery slot every week until, under the rush of new pandemic customers, they decided they could no longer cope with my regular guaranteed order and threw the doors open to all comers.

Ooooh wait, that was a mistake! No longer are delivery slots available to any customer that doesn’t make it online in time to snatch the next delivery slot in two weeks.

Then their website becomes inaccessible – even for customers with pre-booked orders – due to the sheer volume of new customers trying to fill trolleys with toilet paper, flour, pasta and tinned tomatoes. Yet Ocado are not a physical retailer with an online presence – they are ONLY an online retailer and should be experts at managing just-in-time stockholdings and deliveries.

It took several months to get things back under control. For professed IT experts, it was a complete shambles and certainly not their finest hour!

2) Switching over to M&S food has been a disappointment. Waitrose took over the innovative, premium grocery market some years ago, whilst M&S are still flogging their 1979 Chicken Kievs. Rebranding it 1990s “Gastropub” doesn’t make it any less tired, or more healthy.

And what happened to the new product lines to replace Waitrose? Where is the No.1 Coconut and Lime Ice Cream substitute, a weekly favourite on my cancelled Ocado Reserved order? Does Ocado really expect me to serve M&S Pineapple, Coconut & Lime Lollies at my sophisticated Chicken Kiev dinner party?

So Ocado has taken over the role of the milkman at our house, delivering milk, butter, cream, orange juice, sliced bread, and a few other staple foods. I now go to Waitrose to pick up main courses and a few luxury items.

The only good thing to come out of the switch is the availability of Picard frozen foods, the French upmarket equivalent of Iceland.

I will take issue with your first point, Em. To quote from ‘The Grocer’: “The business is not accepting new customers and has an online queueing system in place for existing ones to make and amend orders. Users have flocked to Twitter to complain to Ocado of waiting hours in an online queue only to be told there were no slots available. The Grocer was placed at 146,361st in the queue when we joined today (26 March).

I registered with the Ocado several days before but never managed to place an order. It was months later that they contacted me to say that they would now accept my custom.

Wavechange – you were one of the “unlucky” ones. The stable door was slammed in your face.

What the Grocer reports was not the reality for existing Ocado customers – except it was. Us “users” (what a way to describe a customer!) were in that queue of 146,361 johnny-come-latelys, waiting to access, amend or cancel existing orders. That or be faced with whatever Ocado chose to put in our trolley, based on previous order history, when our delivery finally turned up.

What made it worse was that I was allowed to join one of these queues only to be rejected a couple of hours later. Other supermarkets offering deliveries or click & collect had the decency to say that no slots were available as soon as I logged in.

For months I have been able to get a click & collect slot from the local Morrisons store on the following day. Friends have had better success with other supermarkets, so a lot depends on where you live. Maybe one day I will forgive Ocado.

I don’t see why anyone should have to wait to amend an order that has already been placed. I’ve used Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose and had no problems.

Picard was available pre-M&S – I bought some of their offerings from Ocado last Christmas.

Picard items were available from Ocado pre-M&S – I bought some last Christmas.

We’re a long term Ocado user, having first used them around 2008. Over the last 5 or 6 years we had a regular weekly delivery organised, but then Covid came and things went haywire. The regular delivery system went AWOL and several booked deliveries didn’t happen at all.
Things settled down after several months but then along came the M&S switch. I’m afraid the M&S range doesn’t entice us and we’ve moved over to Waitrose, with an Ocado order once every 6 weeks to get the things that Waitrose don’t stock,
Waitrose don’t make a delivery charge and we’ve had a number of free items on short dates free of charge. Today’s order had a number of subs, charged at our ordered price. A large bag of mixed salad leaves instead of a small, a 4 portion pizza instead of 2 portion, 2 bottles of hand sanitiser for 80p that retail at £1.80, a different brand of muffins for £1 that retail for £1.80 etc, etc. Overall the subs we got would retail for more than a fiver above the price we were charged. And our previous two Waitrose orders had a pack of mince pies as an uncharged extra.
So we are more than happy with Waitrose and will just use Ocado for the odd top up of items Waitrose don’t sell.

Lovatt says:
16 December 2020

We’ve used Ocado for over 10 years and were happy with the number of lines, pricing options and the choice of ethical/sustainable items as well. Personally, the change to M&S food lines has been very disappointing. Not only have we lost like-for-like on a number of lines but they have also taken away a high number of Ocado lines, particularly ones we preferred. And, there has also been a loss of the ethical and/or sustainable items. Finally, there have been a number of regular items that we used to order than are not unavailable on a regular basis. So, when our annual payment finishes in July, we will stop using Ocado. It is not solely because of our disappointment with the change to M&S but it is the main factor.

Em said Switching over to M&S food has been a disappointment

This is probably the first time M&S food has been reviewed by customers and judging by many customer comments, they should be finding out they are not as good as they think they are.

I have been disappointed with much of the veg that I think is of a lesser quality than in-store. Small white cabbage, small baking potatoes, carrots that taste good but rot after a couple of days, it is not what I expect from M&S. If I buy carrots in-store, I select 2 or 3 for their size that will get used, but when they are sold in large packets a lot will go to waste unless you freeze it. I freeze some, but I like it for coleslaw and thawed out frozen grated carrot just isn’t the same.

I think they have created too many new products that are not up to the standard of Waitrose. Waitrose has had a its share of duff products but nowhere near to the extent we are seeing now.

A year or so ago, I had a box of M&S chocolates:

They were the best chocolate selection I had had in a long time, so I was really looking forward to ordering them again on Ocado. I added a box to my trolley for hubby to put in my Xmas stocking thinking they didn’t look very exciting, then read the reviews. Needless to say they were removed from my trolley. Don’t they know when they have a winner? Why change them unless it is to make them cheaper.

And that box of chocolates reflects what I think has happened to a lot of M&S food on Ocado.

I used to love Ocado when we worked in the office and I had to commute home late – never had time to do “real” shopping, so would order everything to be delivered.

But since the Coronavirus, it is hard for me to get delivery slots and with M&S’s merge they are often out of stock – so this has encouraged me to get out and look for what’s available in my small town during my lunch break (it is now possible thanks to working from home policy).

Surprisingly, I found an amazing butcher locally, lovely fresh bakery, and, most important – a sustainable re-fill store literally 2 minutes walk from my house. So even when/if things go back to normal – I don’t think I will abandon my local shops for Ocado as I really appreciate the quality & service they provide. And it is a good to support local businesses!

Jane Foster says:
17 December 2020

I’ve found the quality of M& S veg to be poorer than Ocado or Waitrose. I’ve have to request refunds for produce that’s over ripe or off a few times recently.
I’ve also noticed, that since the initial price checks that I did on comparable products at the start of the switch, the prices have gone up and or the packet sizes have got smaller (frozen veg in particular).
Am I impressed? No, not really. But I can’t get a Waitrose slot around my locality for live nor money so I’ll stick it out until COVID retreats somewhat.

Ocado got greedy at the beginning of the Covid pandemic and took on a load of new customers, leaving loyal customers (since 2003 in my case) in the lurch. I used them for a while once I got a priority slot as other supermarkets weren’t taking new customers. Since the hook up with M&S I rarely do. M&S food isn’t great. Ready meals are stuffed full of sugar and additives and, as someone else has commented, less of the fresh food is organic or ethically sourced. I get Waitrose deliveries now (no plastic bags!), using Ocado for the occasional top up every couple of months.

Joanna says:
18 December 2020

I’ve been a loyal Ocado customer for 18 years, but am very disappointed by the switch from Waitrose to M&S. We were promised like-for-like items, but all the M&S substitute items that I have ordered have been really sub-standard, particularly frozen fruit and vegetables. As others have said, several of the good Ocado items have disappeared. I have compromised for now by ordering a smaller delivery from Ocado each week plus am lucky enough to have a Waitrose nearby so continue to shop for the other half of my shopping with them – the free delivery over £40 allows for me to do this. I’m not sure if I’ll renew my Smart Pass with Ocado when it expires. It’s such a shame that the food quality has suffered in this way, because Ocado’s website, deliveries and customer service continue to be excellent.

I am sorry to be joining in with the general theme. I have been a very loyal Ocado customer for ten years. Ocado has changed too much since going with M&S. Less variety, higher price, much less flexibility in orders. I plan to leave once covid has passed. I will probably go to a mixture of Aldi instore and Waitrose delivery.

GeoffB says:
18 December 2020

We always shopped at Sainsburys and Waitrose before Covid 19 before switching to Ocado in the New Year. They have been excellent service. We have never failed to get a delivery slot we wanted with the exception of this Christmas week. A we shop for 6, and eat mainly organic food, so we like the selection at Ocado. We were disappointed that M & S has been switched for Waitrose. We now have a weekly Waitrose delivery as well as an Ocado one. Both Ocado and Waitrose have great food quality though we buy little in the way of M & S products. Where Ocado do score higher for us is that that their stock control is much better so that Ocado rarely has substitutes or unavailable items whereas this is an issue at Waitrose. If the item is available at Ocado we will choose it from there.

Teresa Davis says:
18 December 2020

I was really looking forward to being able to buy M&S food from Ocado, as I do not live near enough to a M&S to shop there very often. What a disappointment! I have tried a large number of products, most of which, I definitely will not buy again. M&S used to have excellent ready meals to use when I had no time to cook. I will now avoid all of them, because they are very second rate and tasteless.
I will now have a Waitrose delivery alongside my Ocado order.

Sarah Roberts says:
18 December 2020

I’m afraid I have to agree. Having been a loyal Ocado customer for 15 years, I am deeply disappointed with the new look Ocado.
They did indeed provide M&S equivalent products for the first couple of weeks, but these seem to have disappeared now in many cases, and my shopping is certainly more expensive. In addition other branded products seem to be disappearing too.
I shall stick with it until I get my vaccine, then I shall vote with my feet and switch to Waitrose and maybe combine it with Aldi for staples.
Big mistake switching to M&S in my opinion.

Beedee says:
18 December 2020

Agree with many of these comments. I’m not a fan of m and s. Same prices as waitrose but ready meals in particular are bland. Homogenised approach to everything. I too went off ocado when it took hours during lockdown to get a slot despite being a customer since their early days. So when switch happened I stuck with Waitrose whose products and range are way better, combining shop visits/click and collect and delivery. Being at home more makes that easier. Plus I am doing more fill in shopping locally which good for local businesses and gives more variety. Was helped by Waitrose enticements vouchers I received as a registered customer. Ocado is history for me!

Janey says:
18 December 2020

I really thought I would prefer it as it saved me going to M&S for the odd bits I get from there. But most of them are not available on Ocado. Preferred the Waitrose stuff which I do miss. But what now annoys me more than anything else is ever since this pandemic started my usual free delivery on a Wednesday morning is now £5+. Having read the above comments I may now give Waitrose a try.

Sally says:
18 December 2020

I’ve been a long term customer of Ocado with regular deliveries every week. I’m not able to shop in the supermarkets so it’s my lifeline. Ocado have consistently demonstrated throughout covid that they really don’t care about their long term customers. Poor communication means you repeatedly are checking for slots when there are none to be had. They change their booking algorithm without advising customers. Those of us with smart passes were blocked from booking deliveries even though my immediate neighbour ( without a smart pass) had a full range and choice of delivery slots for the following week. I put in a complaint via the complaint system on the website and was told they couldn’t deal with it and I had to complain officially?! All I hear is keep checking for slots. Currently I’ve had to wait 8 days for today’s slot and there’s none available in the future. I always used a midweek pass but had to pay extra for an anytime pass and during lockdown I could only have 1 delivery every fortnight! With a family to feed and due to medical needs I require fresh food so it was a nightmare.
Previously I always recommended Ocado but never again. I now use another online service where I can just book for the next day as required.

The majority of M&S products are very much like the Waitrose products. I’ve not seen any price hikes. With various dietary restrictions there are now some products not suitable any more. But there are also a range of products that I can now buy e.g. I can now buy M&S gluten free flour ( much cheaper than other other suitable brands for me), delicious GF battered and breaded chicken. Generally the quality of fresh fruit and veg has deteriorated over the last few months…noticed in Ocados own range. M&S generally no different to Waitrose.

It’s a shame that long term I won’t be using Ocado, due to issues outlined above, as I’ve been enjoying the M&S products.

Melanie says:
18 December 2020

Ocado was consistently in my top 3 company I trusted , but I was utterly appalled by the switch to M&S and the trust has been irreversibly broken. They acquired their customers through their relationship with Waitrose and then thought they wouldn’t mind a switch to M&S, aggressively showered them with « loyalty vouchers » at the time of the switch as though customers couldn t figure what it was about. I can t believe they went ahead with the switch in the middle of the pandemic when it was very difficult to find alternative providers if you weren’t an existing customer elsewhere. It was SO unethical. At the soonest opportunity I joined Waitrose. Waitrose is able to do deliveries without forcing plastic bags on customers who never asked for them (ocado recycles them but not using in first place is far more environmentally friendly than recycling. Plus I find it appalling Ocado charge 5p for bags I never asked for (I know they give you the 5p back if you return but a. they stopped taking bags back during the pandemic b. How can they charge me for something I didn t buy?). I now have Waitrose doing bagless deliveries for free vs Ocado who charged me for a smart pass I didn t want and bags I didn t want. I was not averse to M&S before this agressive switch but now I trust neither Ocado nor M&S. I thought the whole thing was very sly and underhanded.

We have been disappointed, but not surprised, at the reduction in choice since M&S joined with Ocado. They have not provided a sufficiently similar offering for many Waitrose lines.
Importantly, the cost of our shopping has also risen. Lower price choices often seem to be unavailable when shopping and, very annoyingly when trying to budget, premium products substituted on delivery. Due to having to self-isolate, we have had to accept them.
We are now trying a mix of other delivery companies, including Waitrose and Asda, to achieve a good choice of lines at reasonable prices.
Such a shame as the Ocado/Waitrose combination was ideal for us.

Carol Hughes says:
18 December 2020

the assumption seems to be that all parts of the U.K. have access to Ocado. Here in Scotland we are still waiting for Ocado to start up. And they can’t tell me when they will start delivering.

Yes, same in Northern Ireland. It would be good to have the choice but its not available here.