Following weeks of speculation, Waitrose has today made a formal announcement that it is opening in Sherborne, on the Cheap Street site of the existing Co-operative supermarket.
We are told this will be a Waitrose food shop (rather than a convenience shop) and so will have a strong focus on food. All branded products will be the same price as Tesco, excluding promotions, and Waitrose will also offer its essential Waitrose range providing ‘affordable products that don’t compromise on quality.’
We have received the following statement from Nigel Keen, Director of Development at Waitrose:
Waitrose has been exploring opportunities that allow us to realise a long–standing ambition to open a shop in Sherborne.
I therefore felt it was important to inform you that we have reached an agreement with The Co-operative Group to acquire its shop on Cheap Street.
All 45 employees at the shop will be given the opportunity to join Waitrose and become Partners in the John Lewis Partnership. We also hope to create additional jobs at the branch.
As Partners, co-owners, in the John Lewis Partnership they have a stake in the success of the business, a say in how it is run and a share in profits.
The Co-operative will continue to trade as normal until 13th March 2014. It will then close for approximately three weeks to allow the shop to be converted and for the employees to receive their inductions as Waitrose Partners. We expect to open the new Waitrose in April next year.
Waitrose is keen to play a positive role in the local community and we will be launching our Community Matters and Partner Volunteering schemes at the branch to support local causes.
Community Matters will see Waitrose Sherborne donate £1,000 between three causes every month that have been nominated by our customers. In this way we will donate £12,000 between 36 local causes each year that are at the heart of the local community.
Through our Partner Volunteering scheme, our Partners will also donate 250 hours of their paid time to supporting community projects each year.
We’re looking forward to becoming part of the community and will provide an update in the New Year.
This is definitely NOT a case of ‘No to Tesco, Yes to Waitrose’ but as Waitrose is taking over an existing town centre site there are no planning issues to argue, as this fits within the criteria of the current Local Plan.
However, we acknowledge that many specialist retailers in the town – our butcher, bakers, delicatessens, greengrocer, wine shop, market traders and other supermarkets and convenience stores will face new competition from Waitrose and we urge everyone to keep supporting existing independents to build on the positive impact our campaign against Tesco has had on high street unity.
To balance that, we hope the arrival of Waitrose will further establish Sherborne’s reputation as a good food destination – something ALL retailers can benefit from. Also, undeniably, the town will gain from increased footfall as Waitrose shoppers choose to visit Sherborne rather than Gillingham or Crewkerne – a potential general boost to retail and tourism in the town.
We are sure there will be, as ever, a mixed reaction to the announcement, and the future is not without challenges, but we are confident of public support for Sherborne’s smaller retailers and we urge everyone to continue to support their high street.