Waitrose Chandler’s Ford 668 opened on 26th November 2002.
The following article appeared in the Partnership in-house magazine at the time.
Residents of Hampshire and beyond have been waiting for Waitrose at Chandler’s Ford to open and came out in force when the day finally arrived.
Customers were impressed by the new generation shop’s clean lines, the friendliness of its Partners and, of course, the potentially overwhelming array of edible treats that you just don’t find in any other supermarket – ranging from Le Poulet d’Or chickens (reared thirty minutes’ drive away on the Partnership’s own Leckford estate) to Scottish mussels in a Thai sauce.
More than any other Waitrose opening, this one was characterised by what one Partner described as a definite ’feel good’ atmosphere. Within minutes of the Branch Manager Andy unlocking the doors, customers were hailing their friends and stopping to chat; throughout the morning, the sound of the tills was frequently drowned out by bursts of laughter or shouted greetings as those conversations continued to flow. ‘This is going to be the new meeting place in town’ one customer assured Ronnie, Department Manager Customer Services, as he headed off to join his friends in the smart cranberry-coloured café.
Andy was notching up his second branch opening in two years after opening Waterlooville on exactly the same date ( 26th November) in 2000. ’You can already see how well this shop is going to fit into the area as it gives customers a choice.’ He explained ‘As well as people from Chandler’s Ford – which is ideally located for commuters using either the M3, M27 or train services to London – we’re expecting our catchment area to extend to Winchester, Southampton and Romsey. Features such as our enhanced service counters and 80 seat café with its traditional pizza oven should be very popular.’
With a high number of new Partners among its 210 strong team, the challenge will be to convert them to ’the Waitrose way’ but he is confident about the support available from his experienced management team. That confidence was shared by Director of Selling Mark Price who commented, ‘It’s been a very busy three months for the business as we’ve opened four branches, but our new design is really moving the business forward.’ Peter, Operations Manager Group A, continued that he was ‘delighted’ with the latest 23,000 square foot addition to his group. ‘I’m very confident about its prospects,’ he said.
And he had every reason to be, as Partners from all the usual Bracknell departments were on hand to put the finishing touches to the weeks, or in some cases months, of work that ensure each Waitrose branch is given the best possible start. Mark, Project Manager, New Branches, was paying tribute to what he jokingly described as the ‘thousands of years of experience’ of his specially seconded merchandising team which has been ‘on the go’ since August and was about to disband. ‘They have been fantastic,’ he declared, ‘exactly what you need when you’re covering this number of branch openings.’
Meanwhile, Jeremy, Buyer (fish) was looking as fresh as the morning’s catch – remarkable considering his 3am start. ‘This should be a really good branch for fish,’ he predicted , surveying the new style counter. ‘Chandlers Ford has the ideal customer profile for Waitrose and we’re expecting our organic ranges to sell particularly well.’ The hand crafted sea-food themed steel sculptures on the branch’s balustrade and Oakmount Road windows. – featuring giant squids, crabs and shrimps – echo his words; they have been designed exclusively by artist Julian Warren whose 10-foot long stag beetle has already been causing a commotion at Bristol Zoo.
For the Building Group’s Project Manager (Waitrose), Kevin, there was definitely a feeling of relief that the shop was up and running. ‘ For Waitrose development it was a complicated site to assemble, and once we started building, the space available was very tight; we virtually had to shoe-horn the branch in! I’m pleased with it, though. The feature tower with its clock and metal sculptures, certainly catches your eye on the Oakmount Road.’
After training elsewhere, Partners were pleased to be serving their own customers. Bill had given up his job as a postman to become a Supermarket Assistant, Dry Goods. ‘This is a terrific shop and I’ve already seen several people I know from my rounds.’ I really like the idea of everybody being a ‘Partner’ ,’ With his wife Rachel already a Partner at John Lewis, Southampton, Simon Assistant Section Manager, Dry Goods was getting to grips with a different type of retailing. ‘ This is a complete change for me as I used to sell clothes, but it’s been fun from the minute I started – I even enjoyed my interview! I’m also surprised we’ve been busy from so early in the day: people must have been starving themselves in anticipation.’
Liverpool-born Paul, an Assistant Section Manager, on secondment from Waitrose Brighton guided customers through the new fish assortment.’ I was a chef until two years ago, so I love giving customers tips and recipe ideas. It’s all part of the fun and I’ll be passing that on to the team here over the next couple of weeks.’
New Partner Julie, Supermarket Assistant, food service, was in her element of the cheese counter. ‘I loved my training, as I was able to taste 27 different varieties in one session. This certainly beats my previous job in a warehouse.’
Gazette Vol 84
No 45. 07. 12.02