Banstead re-opened, bigger and better than ever, just 11 months after it was devastated by fire.
The re-opening of Waitrose Banstead, on Thursday last week was a red-letter day in local history and was hailed as an event to tell the grandchildren about.
Less than a year after the store was devastated in a fire, the store has re-opened bigger and better than ever. Branch Manager Stuart, commented on opening day that it was like ‘a phoenix rising from the ashes.’
Its success saw sales outstripping expectations and achieving what is believed to be the highest first three days’ takings at any branch opening in the last three years.
Near to tears, first customer Suzy was overcome with emotion as she fulfilled her pledge to be the first customer in the new store as she was one of the last customers to be evacuated on the day of the fire. Meanwhile, customer David asked Stuart to autograph his receipt, the first to be rung through Banstead’s new checkouts saying ‘This will be something to show the grandchildren. After the fire I was determined to be the first customer through the tills when Waitrose re-opened here.’
As customers relished being re-united with Partners in the store, they were part of history in the making as recorded by Banstead History Society. The society set up displays in the village library with the help of the Partnership’s Archive Team on the history of Waitrose, as well as events surrounding the fire and the eventual re-opening.
Managing Director, Mark, joined Partners for the big occasion and commented, ‘I think that what Banstead illustrates the real difference in Waitrose. We’ve rebuilt a branch in 11 months, we’ve made it bigger and better than it was before. During that period, all Partners have been re-located to other branches and we also gave customers a small convenience shop so that they could continue to shop with us.
‘I think what this shows is the industry and professionalism of our building group, merchandising and all other Partners, and the commitment of Partners to stay with us as well as their adaptability. It also shows the commitment we have to our customers when others might not have done that – I just think it’s an outstanding effort.’
Director of Development, Waitrose, Nigel, said, ‘When you consider that for the first four months, we weren’t allowed to do anything on the site and part of that time was taken up with negotiating with planners, we’ve probably only been physically building this for seven months. To see what’s been achieved is a remarkable testament to the efforts of all partners, both internal and external. It’s very humbling when you consider what has been accomplished against all the odds and in such a short space of time.’
Stuart told his team ‘This is a momentous occasion. It’s 49 weeks since the fire – and to be able to stand here today, ready to open in our brand-new branch is something of a record. Today not only marks the end of one journey but also the first step of a new phase.’ he added. Kevin, now DM Merchandise at Putney, who had raised the fire alarm when he was DMM Banstead and had been the last man out of the store when it was evacuated, was one of the two Partners invited to cut ribbons at the store entrances. The other was Dry Goods Partner, Richard who celebrates 25 years with Waitrose in January and who dedicated the event to his mother. She had been instrumental in getting him his job at Waitrose and had died of breast cancer in October 2007.
Kevin said ‘It’s fantastic being back in the branch again and its very humbling to be asked to cut the ribbon. The store is very much the hub of the community here and the re-opening of the branch means a lot to Partners as well as customers.’
The sense of community was confirmed by Minesh, who had taken over the role of DMM at Banstead who had joined the branch only 6 weeks before the fire. ‘Because of the culture in the branch, you get to know people very quickly.’ he said, ‘It’s an absolute honour to give Banstead branch back to the community. Banstead seems to be one of our most loved branches and people in the community, feel it’s their shop.’
Customer and neighbouring shop Mad Lilies owner, Lee, presented flowers to Partners, saying ‘We really missed you and it’s great that you are back.’
Edited excerpt from The Chronicle Vol 69 No 49. 5th December 2009