Personal Reflections of Ron Collins

I joined Budgens on October 19th 1987, mainly to collect the trolleys, but I was soon helping with beers, wines and spirits. My first manager was Mr John Chapman with Keith Morley his deputy. In those days, ordering was done by two ladies who went round the branch and put in orders by hand. In those days I worked Monday to Friday – no evening work. The busiest day was Friday, collecting trolleys. There was also a large beers,wines and spirits delivery to be counted and stored away. Palmer and Harvey delivered the cigarettes separately and the stock was made available by late afternoon and evening staff. Buckingham’s major supermarket at the time was also run by a night-fill team led for several years by Trish Griffiths’ brother John.

A big turning point in our fortunes came when a big Tesco was opened in February 1993. Sales and takings dropped by two-thirds. Mr Alan Poulton was Manager at the time, so staffing levels were reduced and hours were cut. My hours were cut from 39 to 30 hours per week. Mr Alan Poulton left in 1993 and he was replaced by Mr Bruce Parker. Some time during the mid-nineties Grant Davies left – he was in charge of the frozen goods department. He was not replaced, so Mr Parker asked me to run it. I now had split shifts – around 15 hours on frozen food in the mornings and 15 hours beers, wines and spirits in the afternoons.

When Mr Parker left in 1998, he was replaced by Mr Hamlyn for a few months. Mr Hamlyn was then replaced by Mr Hardy. It was at this time that it was decided it was silly for me to work split shifts so I worked 6 hour shifts Monday morning and Tuesday to Friday 2pm to 8pm. The sales did not really improve, in fact there was a further decline although we had a loyal base of older customers.

Many of the staff who worked for Budgens with me are now Partners at Waitrose. They are Pat, Helga, Trish and Caroline. Rumours were circulating that M & Co and Sainsbury’s would share a divided store. Mr Hardy left and he was replaced by Bernie and Michelle who travelled from Luton and Biggleswade. In fact Waitrose took over the store in the end.

As part of my job, I have done the monthly beers, wines and spirits stock take on Sundays. Social events – mostly Christmas parties were held in the Community Centre, the Villiers Hotel and the now demolished fairground themed Turners of Northampton. Mr Darren Honour and Mr Gary Pritchard moved over from the Moreton-in-Marsh store. I think that Mr Honour was a very good manager, but he left after being with us briefly, but Mr Pritchard stayed.

Time moved on and things remained the same – staff and customers. In our last year the freezers and and chilled cabinets started to break down and there seemed to be no investment to repair or replace them. The good news came when Waitrose decided to move into the site and we heard that they would retain the Budgens’ staff and we would become partners of the John Lewis Partnership. Budgens finally closed on March 31st 2008.

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