Waitrose Chichester 208 re-opened 1st December 1992.
The following article appeared in the Partnership in-house magazine at the time.
Waitrose Partners in Chichester were pre-occupied with Christmas puddings and other festive goods as they prepared for the re-location of their branch and opening to the public on 1st December .
The Christmas lights were already up in the main street of the small West Sussex town as Partners moved lock, stock and barrels of wine from their old branch to the brand-new one just five minutes’ walk away. It is hoped that customers will welcome the move to a shop that has nearly 50% more space than the old one and 255 parking spaces against the old branch’s 80.
The new Waitrose Chichester is convenient for commuters with the main line railway station and a bus station adjacent to the shop. The town centre is five minutes away across a small walkway that runs past a multi-storey car park, and there is a leisure centre across the road from the branch. The offices upstairs overlook the graceful spire of Chichester Cathedral – the only cathedral in England that can be seen from the sea.
Opening a Waitrose new branch is always a challenge with plenty of teamwork needed from Partners. A relocation is a different and just as demanding challenge. The Branch Manager of Waitrose Chichester Alan says ’In the case of relocation, we can’t just concentrate on the opening branch. It is very important that the old shop keeps going and we don’t run out of stock there. Customers should not be inconvenienced by the move.
Another difference is that we are going into action with an established team: in a new branch, almost all the staff are new to the Partnership. At Chichester, we already know each other and our ways of working, which is a tremendous help. Some of our Partners also worked on the opening of our old branch and so are familiar with what’s involved.’ Alan’s team of Partners has been increased to 197, with 43 new recruits to help run the larger branch.
Partnership re-locations are achieved with the help of Partners from other Waitrose branches as well as the established team in the weeks leading up to the opening. Alan says ‘While new branches have over two weeks to prepare for opening, we have less time to get the new shop up and running. So we have to be very organised.’
In the week before the new shop opened, Alan was essentially juggling two branches. Some Waitrose Chichester Partners were getting the new shop ready, while others were maintaining efficient operation (and the full stock assortment) of the old branch. It closed its doors to the public for the last time at 6pm on Saturday 28th November  (it had traded for twelve years), in preparation for the new branch opening on Tuesday 1st December. On the last day, all the stock and equipment was cleared and transferred to other branches – but not to the new Chichester shop. ‘We order stock and fill the shelves from scratch at the new building, just as if we were opening rather than a re-location,’ explains Alan.
Department and Section Managers moved straight to the new shop, but assistant section managers have been working in the old branch for the past week to finish the closing down process.
The sheer space of the new branch appeals to the Partners at Chichester, ‘We’re very excited about the new shop,’ says Alan. ‘It has all the features of a brand new Waitrose, along with a salad bar, service meat counter and bake-off facility. We didn’t have any of these in our old branch. We also have the new style wine department, and the cheese and delicatessen have an improved assortment.’
Alan adds, ‘We have many loyal customers whom we are sure will stick with us and we hope to gain many more. Parking was always difficult in our old branch, now we have many more spaces.’
Winnie, a checkout Partner, enjoys the customer contact that is so much a part of her job. ‘ We have lots of regulars here and I think they’ll enjoy the new store,’ she says. ‘We certainly do – it’s so spacious. I enjoy working at Waitrose for the people – you go into some shops and sales assistants ignore you, but it’s very different here. We’re friendly with each other as well as with the customers.’
Winnie joined the Partnership for the opening of the old Chichester branch. ‘It’s very helpful to have that experience,’ she says. ‘It means you’re not as anxious this time round.’
The journey to the new branch is just three minutes longer by bike for Norma, a selling Partner in the grocery department. ‘ I used to cycle to the old branch every day and now I’m cycling here,’ she says. ’It keeps me fit and I enjoy it.’
Norma goes mountain-biking in Sussex on her weekends off and loves the area around Chichester. ‘It’s a bit hilly for cycling but it’s lovely countryside,’ she says. ‘I often cycle with my husband to Southbourne about seven miles away on the coast, to see my mother-in-law. I was born in Eastbourne, but I’ve lived in Chichester for years and I enjoy a sense of belonging here.’
As section manager meat and fish, Helen presides over a larger empire than before – the new Waitrose Chichester has a service counter for meat.
‘It means that customers have more choice and can buy the exact quantities of meat they want,‘ says Helen. ‘Unlike the pre-packed meat, it is possible to buy just two rashers of bacon or four ounces of mince, for example.’
The fish counter in the new shop is larger and will have the usual wide variety of exotic and traditional fish.
Keith, warehouse manager of Waitrose Chichester, has been more pre-occupied with Christmas during the re-location than most Partners at the branch.
‘For those of us in the warehouse, Christmas begins in August, when Christmas lines start arriving.’ says Keith, who worked at the old Chichester branch for nearly seven years. The Christmas goods were stored at the old shop until a week before opening – when about 80 cage-loads were transferred to the new branch to be dealt with by warehouse Partners.
In tandem with the organisation of the warehouse, Elaine, section manager administration/office, was busy with operational matters. Sheila, who began to work at the Partnership on the shop floor, is one of the office partners. ‘ A new telephone network has been installed as well as the new till system, which is controlled form the office.,’ she says. ‘ We have all been trained to use the computerised tills, which also print out cheques, for the customer, easing congestion at the checkouts. It is our responsibility in the office to key in price changes in the mornings and to close down the systems in the evenings.’
Sheila adds, ‘It has been a challenge being involved in setting up an office in a new branch. I have enjoyed being part of everything that goes on behind the scenes in a new Waitrose – from paperwork, through mastering the phones and computers, to dealing with all sorts of queries from the Partners.
5th December 1992
Gazette Vol 74