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The John Lewis Partnership has extended its reserved shopping slot system to all its 42 branches and 111 Waitrose supermarkets.

The expansion follows a four-week pilot at six Waitrose stores and three John Lewis branches in August.

The system is designed to limit physical queues and manage the flow of shoppers.

Customers can book a shopping slot on the Waitrose or John Lewis website up to seven and 14 days before their chosen time respectively. They then receive an email reminder 24 hours before their planned arrival.

Once at a participating store, shoppers with a pre-booked slot can bypass any queue by presenting their confirmation email to the marshal at the branch’s entrance. There is no limit on how long customers can shop for once they are inside stores.

There is also a virtual queueing system for customers who arrive without a pre-booked slot. Customers can join the virtual line by scanning a QR code or texting an SMS code displayed outside the shop. When they near the front of the virtual queue, they will receive an SMS message letting them know it is their turn to enter the shop.

Those without access to a mobile device can join the virtual queue with the help of a staff member, who will then inform them when it is their turn. Shoppers can also still enter stores without using the system.

JLP said it would also continue to prioritise its elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers, as well as carers and NHS workers whenever a queue formed.

The system will be in place until early January.

It was first launched in partnership with JLAB finalist Qudini. JLAB is JLP’s incubator scheme, offering innovative brands the opportunity to pitch and trial their products with the retailer.

The expanded scheme follows Asda, M&S and Sainsbury’s introducing or expanding their own virtual queueing apps over recent weeks.

JLP is also extending its opening times over the Christmas period. “The majority” of Waitrose supermarkets will remain open until 11pm on 21-23 December, with “some” Waitrose convenience stores closing at midnight for the period, while John Lewis shops will be shut on Boxing Day.

“We’re all looking forward to Christmas this year and whilst things will feel a little different to usual, we’re doing all we can to make our customers’ grocery shop as safe, easy and convenient as possible,” said Steven Hand, Waitrose head of customer experience. “Our pre-bookable slots are just another way we’re doing this and will give peace of mind to those who like to plan ahead and avoid queues.”

John Lewis executive director Pippa Wicks said: “Our priority is to make sure that they are able to shop as safely and easily as they can, whether in our shops or online, while continuing to be delighted and inspired by our Christmas offer.

“While the nation is famous for its love of queueing, we want to make sure that as temperatures drop, our customers have the chance to do their Christmas shopping in a comfortable, convenient way, however they choose to shop with us.”

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