Waitrose Exeter (702) opened on 06/10/2011. This was the fifth branch to open in Devon.
The following article appeared in the Partnership in-house magazine.
As the aisles of our new Exeter shop were filled with local customers for the first-time last week, the branch’s shelves were also filled with a wide variety of local produce. In a campaign organised in conjunction with Taste of the West, a regional food group, over 100 local suppliers applied for the chance to have their produce stocked in store. Of these 52 were invited to present their products across a two-day event held at Ashburton Cookery School.
In an added twist, three branch Partners were also invited to attend the event. Kevin, DM Retail at Gillingham; Katie DM Retail at Saltash, and Margaret from Sidmouth were nominated by their HoROs [Head of Regiponal Operations] to help interview the potential suppliers.
Tracey, Product Manager, Local and Regional, explained that the Partners were able to add invaluable branch insight, ‘They were able to help us with things like customer demographics, case sizes and local knowledge.’
The Partners also gained a huge amount of knowledge themselves. Katie said ‘It was fantastic to see the whole process of how we select local products – it’s not just about profitability, but also about the image, the brand and the story behind the product.’ Kevin added ‘The event was a great opportunity to meet the suppliers face to face and assist them in their quest to grow their business. The whole experience left me in no doubt about the quality and passion that drives local produce in the region.’
Among the most passionate is Simon, MD of Chunk of Devon, who will be supplying the branch and four others with a selection of his pies and pasties. ‘I am reminded that I regularly took my wife out for pie and chips, as though it’s lowbrow and I need to up my game – how can you improve on such a delicacy? To be supplying Waitrose means everything to me – it’s a great big tick in the box, a real seal of approval.’
Another company benefiting from the Waitrose seal of approval, is Perry’s cider, now available in eight branches, including Exeter. George explains ‘ We’ve been making cider for over four generations, so there’s four generations of expertise in every bottle. Waitrose stocking local suppliers is a wonderful initiative which allows smaller producers, such as ourselves, a chance on the larger stage. It also shows Waitrose’s commitment to sourcing the best regional and national produce, whether you’re a multi-national or a small family-based company such as ourselves.’
Customer Service Assistant Kate, is also originally from Exeter and has returned with her husband and fellow Partner Steve, having worked in our Salisbury branch for 12 years. ‘I grew up here and we have always loved holidaying down here,’ said Kate. ‘We always said we’d like to retire down to the west country. Having a couple of jobs to go to first was an ideal opportunity to move down here,’ said Ambient Assistant Steve. ‘We’ve also decided to live closer to the branch; before we lived in a village, so we had to drive to work, but now we cycle which is cheaper and better for the environment – and us!’
The branch has brought Customer Service Assistant, Megan and ASM Ambient Adam back together. They met at Bridport in 2009 when Adam was seconded from Sidmouth and Megan was a new Partner. Then Adam’s secondment ended, and Megan transferred to Chesham. ‘We’ve had our eye on Exeter for a good year now, ‘ said Adam. ‘It’s such a fantastic city with so much going on, especially with John Lewis due to open next year, so it’s an exciting time for the Partnership in Exeter. Plus it’s great to be together again.’
BM Nick is another Partner who has returned to his roots. Born in Plymouth, Nick studied History at the University of Exeter and lived in the city for 10 years, later joining the partnership in Wokingham on the Graduate Plus Scheme. He and his wife who also studied in Exeter, eventually decided they wanted to come back to the West Country, and he transferred to Okehampton and then Dorchester. Exeter is his first opening as a BM.
‘It’s been a really interesting process – very different to the day-to-day job,‘ he said. ‘I’m really happy with my first impressions of the new team – they seem to be a good outgoing bunch with lots of different areas of expertise between them. I’m looking forward to seeing the new Partners growing into their jobs. For me this is day one – all the build up to opening is very exciting, but the actual trading is our bread and butter, and I’m looking forward to establishing the branch and making sure we beat all our targets.’
The construction of the 24,000sq ft branch wasn’t without its challenges. The branch sits next door to the main Heavitree hospital site, complete with a busy ambulance station and planning permission was refused the first time around because of concerns about the impact of traffic. ‘There has been a lot of political willpower involved and we’ve worked very closely with the hospital and local businesses as well as Midas, a local contractor, which has soothed furrowed brows for us,’ said Head of Construction, Environment and Engineering, Tony. ‘Our very aggressive approach to development has allowed us to open a couple of months early though, and the results are outstanding.’
Chronicle Vol 71