24th October 2000, opening day for Waitrose Cambridge, heralded the start of a new approach from the Partnership’s food division. Known as the “Mark IV” design, the configuration of the new store, explains Steven Esom, Director of Buying (Waitrose), is all about adapting the Waitrose offer to the changing needs of their customers. Convenient high-quality meal solutions are the aim here to support the move that so many customers have made away from a traditional weekly shop.
The new Meal Centre groups a number of initiatives together including a service counter displaying chilled prepared meals for heating at home, a hot food offer served from a Bratt pan, a Rotisserie Chicken counter and a Joint of the Day sold from a dedicated carving station. The branch Café also serves the same selection of hot food, wine and beer rather than just the regular patisserie and hot drinks.
Another innovation is the ‘shop within a shop’ wine department complete with its own tasting area. Comfortable chairs are placed in the information centre here including a number of reference books for customers to browse through. The dark wood flooring and atmospheric lighting are used to good effect to separate this area from the rest of the store. The branch Manager, Stuart Finlay, acknowledges that the shop has been beautifully designed and he knows all about Waitrose design concepts as his last branch opening was at Waitrose Bury, the first of the Mark III designs back in 1993.
The exterior of this new shop has also had some serious design attention from Debbie Sullivan, the Waitrose Architect who explains that the aim was to summon up visions of a cool pavilion surrounded by rolling parkland and stately trees. The planning authorities had indicated they wanted the building to be ‘lost’ in the landscape and as the extensive planting around the car parking area matures this is sure to be achieved.
Back inside the branch, for all the new innovations the entrance will hold the traditional display of flowers . Once inside the fruit and veg counters will lead on to meat and fish but for those who have come in for some advice and inspiration they will also find the new Order and Advice area strategically placed near the entrance to highlight the services on offer.
The Mark IV certainly got off to a flying start trade wise. Mr Finlay described sales after the first day as, “Spectacular, record-breaking results” and commented on “phenomenal” sales from fresh food and had one interesting indication of those changing shopping habits – sterling sales were higher for sushi than for eggs!