There has been ‘increased interest’ in online retailer Ocado since Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, according to the company’s chief executive, Tim Steiner.
He claimed there had been a number of enquiries ‘from players in the US’ as the shift away from conventional retail – led by the likes of Google, Amazon and Ocado in the UK – continued not only to gain pace, but evolve.
The enquiries come from companies wanting to use Ocado as their online retail partner.
After initially testing brick-and-mortar convenience stores, Amazon has now invested significantly in physical retail, inheriting more than 400 stores across North America and the UK. Analysts have suggested that, in the Whole Foods takeover, Amazon has accepted the need for online grocery retailers to still have physical stores.
But Steiner believes that Amazon wasn’t clear on its retail strategy just yet, saying it was likely the Whole Foods takeover was ‘a stepping stone’ for Amazon’s future ambitions. He denied that Ocado was setting itself up for a takeover of its own.
“We’ve never been trying to sell ourselves… it’s not a focus of ours to try and sell the business,” he said.
The comments came after the retailer announced its half-year results, in which it posted a 12.5% increase in retail revenue – up to £660 million – with profit before tax lower at £7.7 million. It has also put a new finance facility in place to support its expansion plans beyond the first half of the year, after net debt rose to £102.4 million.
The retailer was among the first in the UK to pioneer online-only grocery deliveries, using automated and software-integrated warehouses to fulfil orders rather than picking items by hand in store. And despite the mixed first-half results, Steiner was upbeat about the company’s health.
He told investors that revenue had been driven by strong retail sales growth and good performance in an otherwise competitive market, with figures suggesting that Ocado is stealing market share from some of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains.
The company is continuing to invest in its own partnerships and innovative new technologies. “Grocery retailing is changing and we are ideally positioned to enable other retailers to achieve their online aspirations,” Steiner said.
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