Edited excerpt from The Gazette, 25th August 1990.
“The new Waitrose branch in Andover which opened on Tuesday has quite a reputation to live up to – the town has already had a much-respected Waitrose for the past 20 years.
‘It is very different from opening for the first time in a new place’ said the Branch Manager John. ‘We are already well known and have a good customer base, but the new shop will enable us to offer our customers an expanded assortment, an even better standard of service and, we hope attract more shoppers.’
Both the old and the new branch are in the Chantry Centre. The centre has been in the throes of being extended and re-furbished for the past 18 months which has caused a great deal of upheaval. But now it is all finished the centre is looking extremely good.’ Branch Manager, John added.
The new shop is in the just completed extension to the centre and is about a third bigger than the old branch. It is right next to a new multi-story car park along with the re-located bus station and taxi rank.
‘During the building work our car-parking spaces have been rather restricted, so we are looking forward to having the situation back to normal. All the Partners at Andover are enthusiastic about the move. ‘The old branch still looked remarkably good’ said Fred, Assistant Section Manager on Wines who has been at the Branch since it opened in 1970. ‘But when I saw the new shop, I realised that it had got a bit dated. The new wine section is much bigger and more attractive, and I am sure that it will be very popular with our customers. Communication about the transfer has been extremely good. Everyone visited the new branch before the move, and we were always kept up to date with what was happening.’
The new shop is spacious and very light with the latest cream shelves and fittings. The display refrigerators are fitted with an easy-to-read digital temperature gauge – as is the salad bar which will be a new feature for this branch.
There are 12 main checkouts plus two in the wine department. The tills will all be equipped with an electronic system to take debit cards such as Switch. Susan from the Waitrose implementation team was at the branch to give additional training.
The assistants were already using the same tills, so all they had to learn about was the EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point-of-sale system,) which is a separate unit usually located to the side or behind the cashier. It takes most Partners about an hour and a half to master the new technique.
Behind the scenes there is an efficient and easy-to-clean warehouse with a lift, which can take six cages and two hoists. ‘The fixtures can be moved and altered much more easily so the space is more flexible’ explained Branch Manager John. Additional storage is also available above the meat chiller.
Andover is the first branch to have a totally new type of kitchen installed. ‘It is a new kitchen which has just been developed for Waitrose and will in future be installed in all branches.’ Said Philippa, Waitrose Catering Supervisor. ‘The main changes are in the serving section which has been re-thought to bring us up to date with modern styles of serving and to meet the needs of the latest regulations in fresh food handling. There are three units, all tiled and on wheels for easy cleaning. One unit is for cold display, one for hot food and the third is a beverage self-service unit and cashpoint.’
Sarah has been branch cook since Andover opened. ‘I am very excited about the new kitchen and the new branch. Having a chilled cabinet makes a great deal of difference. Partners now make their own drinks which saves us time and because the units are on wheels, they are much easier to clean.’ she said.
Sarah moved into the new branch on Friday 10th August and started serving hot meals from the new kitchen form the new kitchen from the following Monday. Snacks and drinks were served in the old branch until it closed on Saturday 18th August.
‘Transferring a branch is rather different from opening a new one as you have two operations on the go at the same time.’ Said John the Branch Manager. ‘You are preparing the new shop while at the same time the old branch must be run as efficiently as possible. The aim is still to have every line available until the last moment but to have as little stock as possible to be transferred when the branch closes.
The Branch Manager, his management team and selected Partners moved into the new branch on Friday 10th August , leaving the old branch in the care of Kevin who us acting as ‘Closure Manager’. Kevin has been seconded from Westbury Park where he is DM Dry Goods.
‘I shall head a team of Section Managers and other Partners who will make sure that the old Branch will stay in top form right to the end. I shall try and transfer as much stock as I can whilst still meeting customer needs. If I do run out of any line, I can get it from another Branch. Once the old shop finally closes, I shall be here to see all the stock, equipment and fittings out of the building.’ said Kevin who will be going from closing aa branch to opening one. He will be DM Dry Goods at Yateley when the Branch opens on November 6th .
Sarah, Manager of delicatessen, patisserie and cheese is looking forward to having more space to display her stock and to the more modern facilities. ‘I joined the Partnership two and a half years ago as an A Level trainee and I have worked in quite a few branches but I have not been in at the beginning of a branch before. I think it is going to be a very worthwhile experience.’
The Manager of Fruit and Vegetables, Graham, started work at Andover 10 years ago as a weekend assistant and has been a full-time partner for seven years. His section has increased in size in the new shop and includes the new salad bar. ‘We have more room for loose vegetables and the whole section is much more attractive.’
Some 70 extra partners have been employed in the new shop. ‘Our recruitment programme went extremely well and we were able to open with very nearly a full permanent staff.’ Said Paul, DM Fresh Foods. ‘New shops often have a lot of Partners helping out temporarily from other branches. This hasn’t happened at Andover- our team is well-established right from the beginning.’
Linda is one of the new Partners, she started work at the old branch in the Fruit and Vegetable department at the beginning of July. ‘I had a lot to learn, but it has been very interesting. I went to Romsey to train on the salad bar and I am looking forward to dealing with that in the new shop.’
Helping out in the wine department as a temporary assistant, before starting at the Royal College of Music, is Katherine. ‘Everyone has been very friendly and helped me to settle in quickly. I intend to come and work again in my next holiday.’ she said.
John on the other hand has been at Andover since it opened. Before h joined the Partnership, he worked as a master butcher and will be working on the meat counter in the new branch. ‘ I shall be retiring shortly, but I am looking forward to spending my last few months in the new branch. ‘ We shall be giving old-fashioned service coupled with all the latest supermarket technology.’