Ocado promises jam, or organic strawberry conserve, tomorrow. Again

The online grocer is saying Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods will have US retailers queuing up at its doors. Still no word on the mystery European outfit that is the only buyer for its tech so far, though

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Wednesday 05 July 2017 12:30
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Shareholders keep asking whether the business can ever grow fast enough to offset the astronomical costs incurred in setting the thing up
Shareholders keep asking whether the business can ever grow fast enough to offset the astronomical costs incurred in setting the thing up

It’s more jam tomorrow from Ocado. Or should that be organic strawberry conserve, which is what its middle-classy customer base might prefer to call it.

The online retailer reported a 22 per cent rise in first half revenues, which is nice. But profits took a tumble (down 14 per cent) debt ballooned (seven times higher than this time last year) and the size of the average order placed by customers fell.

While it’s hard to criticise the company for investing (the reason for the spike in debt) given how rare it is for British businesses to do that, taken as a whole the numbers are more glass half empty than half full.

But, happy thoughts, because the company has (as ever) a positive spin to put on things

It’s still staying mum on the identity of the “regional retailer” in Europe that’s buying some website help from it, and that might buy some kit at some point too.

Fear not, though, Amazon’s move into bricks and mortar retailing through the acquisition of Whole Foods means that it won’t be long before its little European deal turns out to be the first of many.

The interminable wait for the company to do what it has long promised, by selling its whizzy (and expensively developed) robo-shopping tech will be like the wait for a London bus. After taking forever for the first to appear, three or four will soon follow.

The Amazon deal will have spooked American retailers and now they’ll all want to get into online to give it back to Jeff Bezos. A long line of them will therefore be queuing up outside Ocado’s doors as they follow the lead taken by Mystery Euro-Shop SA. Or should that be Mystery Euro-Shop AG. It’s one of the City’s most exciting puzzles.

In the meantime, however, Ocado is having to grapple with shareholders who want a shake up, and the question of whether it’s a grocer or a tech company resolved. They also keep asking whether the business can ever grow fast enough to offset the astronomical costs incurred in setting the thing up.

Experiments with driverless trucks might get the media in a froth and generate headlines, but investors want to know where the money is.

Look, customers love us, and the size of their orders only decreased because, you know, we did less of those multi-buy promos. And as for the money, it’s coming, it’s coming. We promise.

The deal with Amazon is a catalyst. We’re talking to loads of people. Someone’s bound to sign up soon, and, who knows, we might even be able to tell you who they are.

There’s jam! And there’s organic strawberry conserve! You’ll just have to, you know, wait until tomorrow to eat it.

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