UK supermarket chain Waitrose, owned by department store group John Lewis, is set to become the UK’s second-biggest online grocery retailer, overtaking rival J Sainsbury.

Waitrose’s online growth has been boosted by the expansion of Ocado, an online grocer that is 43% owned by John Lewis and sells Waitrose products. Ocado is believed to have annualised sales of £135m (US$262.6m), reported the Financial Times. Waitrose also operates Waitrose Deliver, believed to have annualised sales of £15m, in regions where Ocado does not operate.

Waitrose’s online sales (at around £150m) are edging closer to the estimated £152m of groceries sold online by Sainsbury’s, currently in second place in the online grocer stakes behind market leader Tesco.

Furthermore, Sainsbury’s new chief executive has put online expansion plans on hold for the moment in order to focus on the company’s core supermarket operations. Sainsbury’s well-documented supply chain problems have had a knock-on effect on its online activities, as products ordered online are picked from local Sainsbury’s stores.

“Our focus at the moment is on improving customer service as part of our ongoing drive to get better every day. Once our customer service has reached a satisfactorily high level, we will once again increase our geographic expansion,” Toby Anderson, head of Sainsbury’s online operations, was quoted by the FT as saying.

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