Bridport: Opening

Waitrose Bridport opened on 17/4/2009.  The following appeared in The Waitrose Chronicle at the time.

“Big Welcome at Bridport

It would come as no real surprise to anyone familiar with Bridport to hear that, when our 201st branch opened its doors for the first time last week, queues were soon forming all the way down the aisles.
The historic Dorset market town is a real foodie destination, with three local butchers, two local florists, three bakeries and a green grocer’s as well as a food festival and a regular farmer’s market – which means that Waitrose was always going to be well received by local residents.
‘It’s a massively ‘foodie’ town and from sales on the first day we could see there is a real volume of scratch cooks in the area.’ said Store Manager Kevin. ‘The Cooks’ Ingredients range was very popular and classic scratch cooks’ lines were just flying out of the door.’
Customer feedback has been extremely positive ‘I had someone running up to me in the street on opening day saying, ‘thank you so much for coming to our town!’ The overwhelming response from customers has been that they are so pleased to have us here, that they’ve waited so long and its good to finally have a decent supermarket in town.’ Kevin added.
The 14,500sq ft branch is our fourth and largest Market Town Format branch to date – following St Neots, Brackley and Buckingham last year and is our first of 13 former Somerfield stores that we acquired from the Co-operative group earlier this year.
On opening morning queues formed outside the shop even before the branch had opened. ‘Opening day was fantastic – extremely busy,‘ said Kevin. ’We beat budget by 25% and were very well received.’
ASM Customer Service, Julia who was with Somerfield for nearly 32 years was given the honour of opening the branch on Thursday having formally closed the Somerfield branch two weeks before. ‘It felt really, really good being asked to open the branch,’ she said ‘ I closed down the Somerfield branch which was quite hard – but then to open it up with everything new and everyone happy, smiling and ready to go was a nice feeling.’
As with all our Market Town Format branches, the shop has a strong emphasis on local produce with around 74 different lines. On opening morning, two local suppliers, Denhay Farm and Dorset Farms were offering customers tastings of their cheese and hams respectively.
The Branch also offers customers Quick check, cheese, meat, deli and fish counters, a self service Patisserie counter and for the first time in Waitrose, a self service coffee machine for customers.
‘Customers make themselves a coffee or tea, pay for it at the checkout and can drink it on their way round the shop ‘ said Kevin, ‘it’s a bit early to say how it’s gone down so far, but I think it will be very well received. It’s another point of difference.’
One thing Kevin knows is sure to be a hit is the Waitrose Deliver service, ‘It was very popular as a Somerfield it’s already been exceptionally busy for us. I think it will be a massive boost to the local area.’
Every one of the former Somerfield employees stayed on to become a Partner, bringing the total number in the branch to 89, including 6 brand new Partners and one existing Partner, Wine Specialist Fiona who transferred from Dibden.
‘I was so chuffed when I first saw the wine department – it’s lovely ‘ she said. ‘It’s laid out brilliantly. The Fine Wines section is very good for somewhere as small as this – I wasn’t expecting that. We’ve had lots of customers and they already know my name. I’m feeling quite at home.’
The branch has the same management structure as Buckingham and Brackley with three SM’s and seven ASM’s working in Operations, Replenishments and Customer Service roles. Mark is the Regional Manager of both this and our Sidmouth branch while Kevin transferred from his role as DMCS at Salisbury to become Store Manager at Bridport.
‘ I joined the DM to BM programme last April, and this is the chance to run my own branch,’ he said ‘it’s also a fantastic opportunity, not only to be working in a real foodie town like Bridport but also to shape and create a new branch in the manner that I want to. That’s very exciting.’
‘The market Town Format is about responding to the needs of the local community’ said Ted, Commercial Manager Market Town Format. ‘For example, before we opened we held a community event to introduce ourselves as new neighbours. Customers told us they really valued the free delivery service offered by Somerfield, so we changed our offer too.
‘We’ve also introduced Price Commitment using Somerfield prices compared to our prices on everyday branded goods. We’ve created a gondola end that shows Somerfield prices and our prices. The 17 lines on the end are 17% cheaper than Somerfield. Again , this initiative will now be used in all 13 sites.’
‘It never fails to amaze me how the team manages to turn the store round in just two weeks with Ian leading the Building Group and Chris leading the Implementation Team and the synergy from all the different departments at Head Office.’ commented Kevin. ‘Also, all the local support we’ve had has been phenomenal – we’ve had a flood team from all over the group, particularly Crewkerne (our nearest branch), Sidmouth and Dorchester.’
Ian is one of three Construction Project Managers, working on 13 Somerfield acquisitions, together with Simon and David. Between the three of them, they will manage all the shops’ transformation to Waitrose from building work through to branding and signage.
‘The main challenges at Bridport were space, especially the car park because it’s owned by the Council so we couldn’t store anything there -it all had to be put in the shop straight away, ‘he said. He was due to start work at Saxmundham on Thursday and will later work on Upminster, Alcester and Leigh-on-Sea. ‘But otherwise it went very smoothly. Let’s hope the other 12 are the same.’”

Edited excerpt from The Chronicle 25.04.09. Vol 69 No 17.

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