I struggled to summon the ‘fury’ predicted by the Daily Mail when Waitrose decided to dash the free cup of coffee from my lips – until I’d shown them the colour of my money at the checkout.  With middle class ‘savvy shoppers’ giving the discounters an ever greater share of their weekly spend and Lidl on the brink of overtaking Waitrose as our 7th biggest supermarket, it makes sense to turn the store’s appeal for great food and drink into an incentive to shop.

So I was curious to try out the Waitrose Supper Club this month.  Dinner from a top chef, wine, a cup of the infamous coffee and the ambience of a supermarket.  It wasn’t to be – all the events are sold out.  There’s obviously a big group of people out there happy to shell out £35 for the supermarket ambience. 

And that started me thinking.  While they diversify into broader ranges, smaller footprints and while more of their sales are made online, the big 4 supermarkets have a resource they need to redeploy.  Space.  That space could be a great asset in meeting new social needs.  A place for the ageing population to discover which products are easiest for them to handle and use.  Or where the growing number of single person households to pool their skills and supplies – maybe one person can cook for another while they alter their Florence and Fred or George clothing?  As homes shrink, can laundry as well as cooking take place out of the home?  They’re already a hub for recycling, but how about upcycling? 

I’m looking forward to see how the out of town giants evolve their bricks and mortar offering over the next few years.  And I’ll happy shell out for a cup of coffee – or even more – to be part of it.

Guest post by Fiona Jolly, Director, Ketchum