As Marlborough’s major Waitrose supermarket re-opened its doors last Friday after a £3.5 million revamp, Andy Davies, its buoyant manager promised its faithful customers a “new experience in shopping”.
And thanking them for their loyalty throughout troubled weeks of the refit, he revealed that the major reason for the refit was to introduce a “green” refrigeration system that runs on cooled water and uses 90% less gas than the previous units.
It was planned two years ago as a carbon-friendly development for the John Lewis backed business, and not directly due to the challenge the store faces with the arrival of Tesco, on Marlborough’s out-of-town former business park site, on the Salisbury Road.
“We have done nothing here for 10 years and technology has moved on,” he explained. “By 2020 it is our intention to have this refrigeration, which uses water instead of gas, throughout our business.
“We have also taken the opportunity to put into Marlborough what we call hospitality – by introducing a small coffee shop, innovations with our check-out system where you can self-scan your purchases, which is available elsewhere.”
“And because we actually have more space, it is allowing us to bring in between 1,500 new lines. It all adds up to a new experience in shopping.”
The Marlborough store, which dates back 33 years, is a pioneer in the Waitrose chain, among the very first to introduce water refrigeration and also a new look café – and self-serving coffee machines — at the store’s entrance.
The café project has been criticised as unnecessarily competing with many other cafes and pubs in the town, but 42-year-old Mr Davies invited the Chamber of Commerce’s retail forum to view the plans and encouraged café owners to see the proposals for themselves.
“Our aim is to enhance the town, not to put anybody out of business,” he said. “We have got new competition now as Tesco has opened. If we lose 10 per cent of our customers, that means about 2,500 fewer people coming into the High Street.”
“We need to ensure we bring these people back into the High Street, which is good for our business and for the rest of the retailers.”
“People do come to Marlborough and make it a day out. They can have coffee with us and lunch in town. It is part of the shopping experience now – and it’s about hospitality rather than running a café.”
He has been concerned that the town has been hit by road closures due to the Pewsey Road bridge project, has battled with parking problems, as yet unresolved, as well as the economic recession.
But another positive element to the revitalised store is that it has taken on 11 new members of staff, bring the number of “partners” to 230, the first two new posts attracting no fewer than 64 applicants.
And as customers begin to learn their way round the revamped store, he added: “I am really bowled over by the number of people who are excited by what we’re doing to improve the store.
“We have been really fortunate to keep them loyal and have their positive support. Their loyalty has been the best bit for me. Marlborough is very important to our business. And I want to keep it that way.”
pic – Andy Davies, Manager of Marlborough’s Waitrose