Waitrose Paddock Wood opened on Wednesday 31 May 2000, achieving one of the food division’s first day trading figures, at that time.
“Opening day was absolutely incredible,” said Tom Dickerson, Branch Manager.” Our trading figure was way above expectation, and the shop was packed almost as soon as we opened the doors.” “Customers have been astounded by the difference. The Somerfield shop was a little dark, but we’ve transformed it into a light, airy, spacious branch. People keep asking if we’ve added an extension.”
Situated beside Paddock Wood railway station in Kent, the second of the Somerfield conversions is near to Royal Tunbridge Wells, in the heart of commuter country. “We’ve everything going for us in terms of location and customer profile. Best of all, I’ve inherited an excellent team of people,” said Mr Dickerson. “I was taken by surprise at how good the ex-Somerfield staff were. They quickly got to grips with the Waitrose way of trading, and I’m proud of how they all pulled together to get Paddock Wood ready.
The 21,000 sq ft shopfloor was refurbished in just four-and-a-half weeks, but according to Mr Dickerson the tight timetable was not a problem because everyone worked quickly and efficiently. “I’d particularly like to thank the night fill team who did an exceptional job filling shelves,” he said.
The branch offered most features of a new Waitrose branch, including a Coffee Stop, cashpoint machines, customer toilets, organic produce and food service counters.
Mark Price, then Director of Selling and Marketing (Waitrose) thought Paddock Wood looked fantastic. “You’d be hard pressed to detect that it wasn’t built and designed by Waitrose, which is down to the great skill and talent of everyone involved,” he said. !You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and I believe the shop’s old and new customers are going to be hugely impressed.
Happy to be trading again , ex-Somerfield employee Matthew Rigden, now a trainee manager, was surprised by the breadth of the fresh food assortment. He was positive about his future. “The training has been excellent, allowing us to take the good things we knew at Somerfield and apply them to Waitrose. Staff communication is first class, too: everyone can have their say and is made to feel involved.”
The experienced ex-Somerfield cashiers played their part in making opening day a success. Heather Moullin, Supermarket Assistant, checkouts said: “I enjoyed catching up with my old customers. They love the new look, and although some thought the prices would be higher they’ve been pleasantly surprised. All the promotions and special offers just flew through the doors.”
Mr Dickerson had been due to retire but instead of winding down he decided to spend the last months of his 33-year Partnership career converting the ex-Somerfield into a shop Waitrose could be proud of. “I like a challenge, and I’m delighted to have had the chance,” he said.