Thame (206): Opening

Thame (206): Opening

Waitrose Thame opened on 24th March 1992. The following appeared in The Gazette at the time:

The newest Waitrose branch opened on Tuesday [24th March 1992].

Thame is first and foremost a market town. Now alongside the cattle market and its centuries-old market stands a new branch of Waitrose.

Mr David Mansfield, Branch Manager is confident of the store’s success “We are sandwiched between Aylesbury and Oxford, and close to the M40,” he says, ‘so have a very large catchment area. Although Thame has a relatively small population – some 10 000 – all roads seem to lead here. It has always been the market town for the area and attracts lots of potential customers.”

Mr Mansfield, who was previously Branch Manager at Birch Hill Bracknell, moved to a village close to Thame two years ago. Living on the doorstep has meant that I have seen the branch from the footings up.”

The new branch, on a site that used to be a chicken farm, lies just behind old High Street with a pedestrian walkway from the branch to the town centre. Its slightly elevated position gives it stature. Wrought iron work runs around the front of the branch, and from the dining-room windows you can see the Chiltern Hills on the horizon. “The building mirrors our quality, I think,” says one Partner.

A feature of the branch is the variety of walling that surrounds it. Along one side is an old wall which is subject to a preservation order. On another is a very attractive Cotswold stone wall and various others have been preserved or matched to complement the surroundings. It must be one of the few recent Waitrose branches that doesn’t sport a clock tower. “There was already one on top of the town hall,” says Mr Mansfield, “but we do have a nice weather vane.”

This is Mr Mansfield’s second branch opening, having opened the branch in Southsea in 1992.  “Although the aims are still the same, the degree of professionalism has improved by light years. The merchandising arrangements are extremely slick and well organised”.

He is also delighted with the 150 new Partners taken on to work in the branch. “We had more than 1,000 applications and were able to take on some very good people. They have come back from training in neighbouring branches eager to put their new-found skills to the test. I am extremely happy with the team we have here and there is already a good atmosphere in the branch.”

Mr Mansfield outlines what he hopes to achieve at Thame. ”Our aim here is simply to be better than anyone else. Quite simply, to gain customers and keep them. The recent customer service drive at Waitrose has taught us all a lot about how to send our customers away happy. So a major theme, right from the beginning here, has been towards customer service and our attitude towards it.”

Many of the Partners notice the spirit in the branch. Kate  is Assistant Section Manager, Meat / Fish. This is her first job since completing her degree last year. “I am thoroughly enjoying it. There is a good, strong, positive feeling in the branch and everyone is working well together.

Susan is Department Manager, Fresh Foods. She joined the Partnership two and a half years ago as a graduate trainee and, prior to coming to Thame, was a Department Manager at Waitrose Milton Keynes.

”I was looking for a new challenge. Starting in a branch from scratch I know that everything that happens in my department I’ve made happen. I’m not inheriting someone else’s style,” she says.

The 14,800sq ft branch has 13 checkouts, all equipped with the latest registers; these are linked to the branch office. Fruit and vegetables are weighed at the checkouts.

Thame is the first branch to have a chilled fruit and vegetable preparation and storage area. “This will enable us to offer customers a better-quality and longer-lasting product,” says Mr Mansfield. “We can now extend the cold chain right through to the checkouts.”

Another new Partner is Don, an Assistant in the Meat and Fish department.  Don, who lives in a village three miles outside Thame, is a fly fisherman and is keen to visit Longstock as soon as the branch settles down.

Dave is Section Manager, Grocery. He has been a Partner for 12 years working at Henley and Chesham and also at High Wycombe. “I’ve helped at branch openings but never seen one through as a section manager,” he says. He is enthusiastic about his staff. “I’ve got some very good people on my team and I’ve tried to impress on them how high standards have to be. The whole town will have its eyes on us.”

Racing Land Rovers is a way of relaxing for Tony, Provisions Assistant. He has lived in Thame for little over a year having spent the previous 14 years as a regular soldier in one of the parachute regiments. His responsibility is the frozen food assortment. He has had no trouble settling in. ”It’s a team effort here and that’s something I am used to,” he says.

Thame seems destined to be a sailing branch. Several Partners are keen sailors with the Partnership’s Sailing Club.

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