Waitrose Cobham 176 opened on 27th July 1982.
The branch opening went ‘absolutely like clockwork.’
Since it’s impossible to set up all the sections at once (some like fruit and vegetables and provisions must wait until the last week of opening for stock to come in) Partners were divided into teams, each with its own colour and specific responsibility for filling part of the store. Whenever possible assistants were grouped with their own section managers. One such group, the red team, was led by Meat Manager Ian. Four new Partners: David, Steven, Martin and Susan were in the team which consisted of some of the Partners from the provisions and meat sections. David, Steven and Susan joined Waitrose from school, and found setting up a supermarket hard work but enjoyable and interesting. They were all looking forward to starting work in their own sections and dealing with the customers.
The standards set for shelf filling are very high: merchandise has to be displayed perfectly, stacked to a certain height and depth with labels all facing the same way.
At the end of each evening prior to opening, the Deputy Manager, together with merchandising and staff training Partners would make a ‘tour of inspection’, looking critically at all the fixtures. Ian said, ‘ In a way I envy all the new Partners starting off in a new branch. There’ll always be something special about Cobham for them.’
The building holds a commanding position at the head of Cobham High Street. It was taken over as an empty ‘shell’ from the developer and fitted out to Waitrose specifications. Although the architectural shape of the branch was already dictated, it still has a very modern ‘Waitrose-like’ appearance.
A feature of the branch is the extensive garden area – both inside and out. A terrace garden cum patio leading from the dining room overlooks the High Street and beside it stands a huge, protected cedar tree which lends height and maturity to the building. To ensure that the tree receives sufficient moisture to the roots, special porous asphalt has been laid around it and rainwater from the guttering which drains into a planted trough at the side of the building will also seep through to feed the roots.
Inside, the branch is strikingly clean and on the shop floor, subtly lit, with the lighting emphasis on the cabinets around the walls. Unusually, there are no large areas of plate glass at the front of the store, the standard, smaller rectangle shape being preferred. Most of the warehouse preparation rooms are lit by natural light. Blue is the predominant colour behind the scenes – for the warehouse floor and racking and for lift doors.
Andrew, Assistant Manager Field Projects and John, Manager Dry Goods are just two of many non-Cobham Partners who have been working towards the opening. John was responsible for all the branch ordering ( with the exception of Fresh Food) whilst Andrew was in overall charge of the merchandising.
The ordering began over two months ago. It’s calculated on the basis of the average orders of similar (profile) branches, and also compared with the overall Waitrose average.’ The whole objective’ said John, ‘is to give the branch its full assortment for the opening and a sufficient balance of stock to keep them going.’
Just as important to Chris the BM was the assistance provided by 18 Partners ‘on loan’ from 11 different branches to help with the opening. He had a special mention for the catering supervisor Philippa and assistant catering supervisor Sarah who kept the food coming until the new branch cook was able to take over on the day before opening.
The opening of the store at 9am more than lived up to expectations. The queue of customers – including some children who seemed determined to be first through the checkouts- stretched as far as anybody could remember at a new branch. Just one minute after the doors were opened the store was bustling with activity, favourite first stops being fruit and vegetables and the delicatessen counter.
Operations Manager Bill was ‘very pleased with all aspects of the opening, particularly the enthusiasm the Partners have shown towards the new branch.’
Although it was ‘early days’ said David, Director of Maintenance and Development, ‘It looks as though it’s going to tick over very nicely.’
There were plenty of compliments from the customers about the store.
Chronicle Vol 43 No 25