Waitrose Biggin Hill opened on 9/2/2006. The following excerpts appeared in the Partnership’s in-house magazines at that time.
“Chocks Away at Biggin Hill
Partners were flying high at Biggin Hill last week as it became the first Waitrose of 2006 to open its doors.
An experienced team of Partners from across the business were once again brought together, along with building and merchandising contractors, to successfully transform the former Safeway store into a Waitrose supermarket in just a fortnight.
It was a particularly tough project for them to complete as the acquired branch almost needed rebuilding.
David, Refurbishment Project Manager, explained ‘There has been a huge amount of work to do on this branch and we have basically given it a complete rebuild from the roof down, including new steel supports and all new refrigeration. At one point we had temporary freezers sat in the car park. Everyone has really pulled out all the stops.’
Branch Manager, Martin, could not agree more. ‘The refurbishment team are amazing. Everything has been replaced, it might as well be a new build. A couple of weeks ago it looked like a bombsite and now it’s a cracking branch. The future holds nothing but success for Waitrose Biggin Hill.’
Martin is a very happy man as he wanted to join Waitrose 32 years ago.
‘In 1974 I applied to work at the East Sheen branch of Waitrose and di not make it. I’ve been wanting to join you ever since.’
Martin, whose brother Robin is Department Manager at Worcester Park, continued, ‘I joined Safeway as a Saturday boy and worked my way up the ladder. I’ve now managed more branches than I care to remember, including Edgware Road and Brighton.’ He arrived at Biggin Hill after Safeway had been taken over by Morrisons, when there was a lot of uncertainty.
‘It was a difficult time for everyone’ Martin explained. The roar of genuine happiness and appreciation that went up when the announcement was made that we were to become a Waitrose was fantastic. I am so proud and humble that Waitrose is giving us the opportunity to do what we enjoy.’
The branch based just a few minutes from the old Biggin Hill RAF station was opened in style with a flyover from a light plane trailing a banner reading. ‘Waitrose Biggin Hill is now open.’
The 19,000sq foot branch has new service counters, a pharmacy and a new look coffee shop.
Project Manager, Merchandising, Mark, commented ‘It has been a very smooth conversion. The whole business has pulled together, and we continuing to learn and put our findings into practice. We now have our six-day merchandising programme off to a tee.’
A big achievement in the conversion is the roll out of the NewPoS system at Biggin Hill. The new system includes new touch screen cashier keyboards with images of all non-barcoded lines.
David, Project Manager PoS Implementation team, Waitrose Systems explained, ‘This is the first conversion we have put NewPos in. The deadlines have been very tight and there have been a number of challenges, but we have worked very hard to get it done and I am really pleased.’
‘This system bears no relation to the old one, so we have had to create a training programme for the new partners using laptops.’
Following trials at Woodley and Harrow and the successful installation of the NewPos system at Biggin Hill, it is now due to be rolled out to all our branches from April 3rd, starting with Sandbach”.
Edited Excerpt from The Chronicle Vol 66. 18th February 2006
First customer, Janice was impressed, ‘This lovely looking shop is just what Biggin Hill needed. The arrival of Waitrose will help to regenerate this area.’
Another local resident had good reason to be delighted at Waitrose’s arrival, Simon, Head of Selling Operations Group H has recently moved to Biggin Hill. ‘The branch is a welcome addition to my group, strengthening Waitrose brand in the area.’
Last word to Branch manager, Martin, ‘I am immensely proud of my Partners who have pulled out all the stops to deliver a first class service. I have received nothing but compliments from customers. One gentleman was quite emotional about the professionalism of our opening. Having such a positive effect on a member of the public was very moving.’
Edited Excerpt from The Gazette. Volume 88. 18th February 2006.