Andy Davies, ebullient manager of Marlborough’s Waitrose, will be missing today (Tuesday) from the supermarket he has made the magnet for shoppers over almost five years and one of the chain’s most successful.
Instead he will be on a train heading for London and the Victoria headquarters of the John Lewis Partnership on a mission to enhance the careers of the 80,000 partners, who are all part of Britain’s biggest department store group.
His talents have been recognised with a boost in his career with a six months secondment to roll out across the business a pioneering system he has developed in Marlborough to give them the flexibility to change and expand their careers.
“It’s Marlborough in the forefront again – absolutely,” he told Marlborough News Online. “We piloted the project with 25 members of my team here, from senior partners right through to non-management members.”
“What is exciting about it for me is that it keeps alive, on a day to day basis, that spirit of partnership that our founder Spedan Lewis created for the group, which is only set to grow as we get bigger and bigger — and better — at what we do.”
It is exciting moment too for Richard Clare as he takes over from Andy (pictured right), who presented Richard with his first manager’s badge in the Marlborough Waitrose store before departing on the eve of the Easter weekend.
Richard only left the Army – he was an infantry staff officer in The Rifles looking after finances – in March last year and became a partner at the Marlborough Waitrose last July.
It was for family reasons that he decided to leave and discovered that Waitrose was looking for store managers at an officers’ association symposium.
“It seemed to me a fabulous opportunity,” said 35-year-old Richard, who lives at Kintbury. “Yes, it’s obviously very different from bullets and bombs. It’s baked beans now but it’s still about the managing process.”
“In the Army life is about drills. And we save lives too. Here in Marlborough it’s about drills too that us efficient and leading the partners through that process. That’s where there really is a synergy between the two.”
It will be an extremely busy six months standing in Andy Davies’ shoes – he is due back in October – since this summer will see major events in the town to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the launch of the Olympic Games.
“So there is a great opportunity for me to get behind the activities that will be going on and help the town celebrate those occasions in style,” said Richard.
Looking back, Andy recalls that it was only a year ago that he organised the revamp of the Waitrose store with the introduction of new energy-saving refrigeration and new products too, as well the store’s new cafe.
He has also seen changes in shopping patterns as a result of the recession, customers now shopping more frequently for fewer goods – there have been fewer of those overflowing trolleys at the checkout – but no reduction in overall takings.
“We now have a much more dynamic store which has done extremely well,” said Andy. “It has been a more positive year and this week the 220 partners will celebrate with their own AGM here in Marlborough, look back on the year and toast the success of the branch.”