The Gazette of February 13th 1971 reported on ‘the end of a long period of preparation for D-day, with Partners everywhere working on final stages of turning their branches into decimal shops.’
Waitrose was no exception, although unlike department stores, they left their training as late as possible, for the sake of greater impact. Trial courses had been held the previous spring and auxiliary trainers were appointed in each branch. To minimise the effect on trading no more than a third of each branch was trained at a time and sessions were kept to the less busy part of the week – Monday to Thursday. In every supermarket a room was fitted up with cash registers and dummy stock and those cash handlers who had their training more than a week before D-day were given further training each week to keep their hand in.
All Waitrose supermarkets (except for four) closed their doors at 2pm on Saturday. Behind their closed doors Waitrose Partners were busy, working anything up until 10pm, with half an hour break for a free high tea.
On the 4th January, six weeks before D-day, supermarkets began to mark incoming goods with dual prices and to convert to dual pricing existing stocks in the warehouse. That same week a special team in each supermarket started to replace the existing shelf edge ticket with new tickets showing the £ s d price on the front and the £ p price on the reverse.
Final preparations involved removing £ s d prices with methylated spirits, putting up D-day window posters and fixing adhesive conversion tables to the tills. But the most symbolic job was to insert a key into the tills and turn it and convert them to register in decimal currency.
Waitrose took to decimals like ducks to water. Mrs S M Mitchell’s (checkout operator at Allington Park) first customer tendered £1 for six items that added up to 57p. She counted out the change carefully and then felt more confident and after a few more customers was picking the change out from the till as if she had been dealing in £ p all her life.
Comments from other Waitrose branches:
Mr J G Claridge, BM at Gloucester Road “Problems? – none at all. The customers are joking over it and making life very easy.”
Miss E M Scott, BM at Westcliffe – “Going very smoothly. Some customers are a little confused and thankful to be getting help. They are very trusting and some just hold out a handful of money and say ‘take it out of that’.”