My time with Waitrose in the 1970s

I joined Waitrose in May 1974 as a Management trainee. I joined with a view to moving to the new branch at Four Oaks Sutton Coldfield when it opened. I commenced my training at Sheldon in South Birmingham.

When Four Oaks opened in November 1974 I transferred there as Assistant Grocery Manager.

In October 1975 I was promoted to Fruit & Veg manager and simultaneously selected to go to Brathay Hall near Ambleside for a two week John Lewis Leadership Course. There were approximately 40 of us from all parts of the JLP but only a handful from Waitrose which in those days only had about 40 stores. Brathay was amazing with 48 hour expeditions camping out on the fells and crossing rivers on a rope. I am sure that todays Health & Safety legislation would not allow it. I was only 19 years old.

My career progressed and I became Warehouse Manager in 1978 and then Provisions & Delicatessen Manager in 1979. In 1980 I became third man or acting assistant Manager and at times was left completely in charge of the store before moving to a larger branch at Cirencester from 1980 until 1984, where I met my wife.

I was for a while Branch Councillor and for quite a while Chairman of the Social Committee.

I learned so much with Waitrose that enabled me to move on to some very senior retail management posts and became a board level director of two leading retail places in the 1980s and 1990s.

Today I own a chain of Mexican restaurants.

I frequently credit my early career and especially the training with Waitrose at both Four Oaks and Cirencester as the reason for any success I may be deemed to have enjoyed in my several careers.

What a marvellous career path that saw me spend 11 happy years with Waitrose leaving in 1985.

I worked at Sheldon, Four Oaks, Cirencester and Southsea but it was Four Oaks that remains deeply imbedded in my heart and memory.

At Four Oaks I had the most amazing career and met amazing people

Forgive me if I miss a few names out here but I recall clearly

Arthur Flower, Wendy Throup, Steve Fletcher, Neil Worthington, Terry Higgs, Alison Kemper, Jackie Price, Keith Betts, Dave Harcourt, John Pepperell.

Comments about this page

  • Hi Paul, might you remember Pam H and David G? We both worked there in the Meat Room mainly, at the same time as you, we started seeing each other and got married. We still are and came across this page today – good memories!

    By david gilbert (25/06/2021)
  • Paul, thank you for you contribution. Did Harborne have a store in those days? I am a graduate of the Findlater chain in Ireland which closed its doors about 50 years ago with the emergence of what we now call supermarkets. If I recall correctly, the Findlater name lives on in Waitrose/John Lewis.

    By John Bergin (31/03/2020)

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