James Moore: Waitrose already looks like an Olympic winner

  • @TheIndyBusiness

Outlook When chief executives bemoan the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee in the same quote you know there's trouble afoot.

Ocado's Tim Steiner did just that alongside yesterday's half-year results and £90m disappeared from the company's market value quicker than a warehouse full of asparagus offered to its largely well-heeled customers at half price. An over-reaction? After all, the company made a (small) profit and largely met analysts' expectations. If British athletes react similarly to Ocardo's investors to a bit of temporary adversity there'll be precious little for the home team to cheer this summer.

But maybe Ocardo's panicky investors have the right idea. What worries them is whether Ocado can grow sales sufficiently to leave a sustainably profitable business.

One-off events like the Olympics and the Jubilee would appear to make that question difficult to answer because of the disruption they might cause to trading.

But then such disruption can be created by all sorts of things. Even the weather (look out for this in next year's excuse).

Ocado's problems are long term and structural. Attracting consumers from beyond its well-heeled base at a time of austerity for starters. Even if it matched Aldi's prices they might not come. Because if they want cheap (and right now who doesn't), Aldi is where most of them will think to go.

Then there's the growing threat of one-time partner Waitrose. Ocado still sells a lot of its range (although it is battlling to build its own brand) but the former is now free to compete within the M25 as their civil partnership steadily unwinds.

Guess what: Waitrose is currently carpet bombing commercial radio with ads offering £75 off customers' first five internet orders. And there's no moaning about the Olympics from that quarter.

Which is perhaps why trade journal Retail Week awarded it a gold medal as the grocer most likely to benefit from the Games.