Waitrose Beckenham opened in September 1994. The following appeared in the Partnership’s magazine, The Gazette, at the time.
The Partnership’s newest supermarket is ideally placed for the daytime shopper and the commuter.
Nobody who catches a train at Beckenham Junction can fail to miss the new Waitrose. Rising from the ashes of a British Rail coal yard, it fills the view from the platforms.
Partners in turn have an excellent view of the trains from the branch dining room and the adjacent terrace. The dining room is dominated by a floor to ceiling window which looks down over the station and towards Beckenham High Street. French windows connect the dining room to the terrace which has attractive wooden seating and planting boxes.
Glass is one of the overriding impressions of the branch. The lower part of the front of the shop is an almost complete wall of glass with the run of 17 checkouts slotted in behind.
Customers are welcomed into the branch with colourful displays of plants and fresh and dried flowers. Greetings cards, newspapers, magazines, and the customer service desk are also situated at the entrance to the shop, as are the customer toilets and baby changing area.
Again, at the front of the building, but at the opposite side is the spacious and attractive wine department. Here there is room for a chilled cabinet to hold a wide selection of white wine, plus special displays, both for the wines of the month and Waitrose’s large assortment of half bottles.
One of the central displays in the department is a ‘promotion arc’ – a striking arrangement of wooden wine boxes which will hold a changing display of wines which are either on ‘’special offer’ or highlighted in some way.
The service counters run the length of the back wall and include the bake-off, patisserie, meat fish and delicatessen. Also on sale is a selection of cooked food that can be taken home and reheated.
Like all new branches, Beckenham has a tempting selection of ready prepared meals. Apart from the food on sale at the delicatessen, there is an excellent salad bar and a large range of chilled and frozen meals.
The new branch with selling floor and warehouse on one level is extensively landscaped. It is within walking distance of Beckenham’s bustling shopping centre as well as of the station and is ideally placed to catch the daytime shopper and commuters returning from work.
Sue, Branch Manager at Beckenham, is plunging straight into the fresh waters of Sunday trading. Her new branch will start its second week on a Sunday.
‘It’s a major change to our working hours, but it has been well planned and I am sure it will be very successful.’ says Sue. The branch which has more than 200 partners will be trading for more than 70 hours a week. ‘One point we have do have to bear in mind is communication. With so many Partners working shifts we have to be very careful we catch everyone in the net for branch and department meetings.’ She will be on duty in the branch for about one third of its opening hours. ‘This won’t be a problem as I have an excellent team of department managers and section managers to provide the necessary cover.’
Sue, a partner for 25 years, has moved from Banstead where she was manager for more than 14. ‘I was sad to leave Banstead, especially as I had been there to open the re-located branch in December 1990, but I knew it was time for a change. There have been many innovations in Waitrose in the past few years and there are more in the pipeline. It is an exciting time and I want to b part of it in a new branch. This is a lovely light airy shop with lots of space and all the new design features which really help to show off the merchandise.’
But however different the branch looks; one thing stays the same – the high standard of customer service. ‘It has always been an important part of our philosophy but a new area like Beckenham where Waitrose is an unknown quantity, it is vital that we build up a loyal customer base as quickly as possible.’ says Sue. Once a customer visits Waitrose Beckenham for the first time, we have to make sure they keep coming back.’
Until a few weeks ago, Jane worked in a local school, but now she is a fully fledged Waitrose Checkout Assistant and loving it.
‘I have really enjoyed learning my job and feel very confident about scanning and about dealing with customers.’ says Jane who has undergone training at Bromley. ‘I had never been in a Waitrose branch before I got this job, but the training made me feel part of the team – and part of the Partnership as a whole.’
Philip, Section Manager Checkouts, Wines and Customer Service has transferred from Caterham where he was in charge of the Fruit and Vegetable section. ‘It is unusual to change sections when you go into a new branch but I was very keen to make the move because I am interested in wines and the new checkout systems’ he says, ‘Scanning is a key area at the moment and will bring many changes in its wake.’
Before joining the Partnership, Philip worked for various wine companies and hotel groups and holds both the certificate and the higher certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. ‘I am pleased to be working with wines again, particularly as Beckenham has such an extensive range. I hope to organise wine-tastings and discussions for the Partners in this section so that we can offer customers an even higher level of advice and service.’
Office Partner Vicky has moved from Kenton to Beckenham. ‘I put in for the transfer because I live locally, but it is also my first branch opening and I have really been enjoying the build-up and excitement. I’ve had a lot of new office system to learn, but that all seems to have gone very smoothly. It is a lovely branch with lots of new features and it has already attracted a great deal of local interest.’
Bill, Department Manager Dry Goods is responsible for a wide range of departments. On the shop floor his remit includes, checkouts, grocery, non-food and wine, while behind the scenes he takes care of the office and audit team, the warehouse and car park. Just the varied and definitely not nine-to-five job he was looking for when he left the Royal Navy. ‘There is so much variety in this job – you never know what each day is going to bring’ says Bill. He joined the partnership four years ago and has moved to Beckenham from Windsor where he had a similar post. ‘The new branch is bigger and of course there are lots of new features. On top of that there is the excitement of the opening which makes the job even more interesting than usual.’
He believes that one of the many strengths of the branch will be the fine selection of ready prepared meals. ‘We are ideally placed for commuters to drop in on their way home from work. They can pick up a bottle of chilled white wine, a baguette and perhaps fresh pasta, a salad plus choose from a wide selection of puddings and fruit. Much better than cooking after a hard day’s work.’
Sharon, Section Manager Provisions and Pre-packed Delicatessen, also Branch Social Secretary, spent eight years at neighbouring Bromley before moving to Longfield when that branch opened two years ago. ‘Since I live locally, I was very pleased to come back and work in the area,’ says Sharon who is looking forward to arranging social events for the Partners at Beckenham.
‘Lots of Partners live locally and that always helps when you are organising events ‘ she says ‘The terrace would be ideal for barbeques or parties, but I’ve got nothing planned so far – we’ve all been too busy thinking about the opening morning.’
Edited excerpt from The Gazette Vol 76, 10th September 1994.