Waitrose opened its £20m superstore on time despite social media speculation it wouldn’t be ready.
The shop, which features a stunning frontage overlooking the canal, was opened by city MP Stephen Mosley and Lord Mayor of Chester Cllr Bob Rudd at 8am today (Thursday) with the ribbon cut by nine-year-old competition winner Chloe le Ballois from Hoole CE Primary School.
The previous evening VIPs were invited to a special preview, including council leader Mike Jones, Chester Renaissance chairman Eric Langton and university Vice Chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler, where ‘tasters’, made by local suppliers, were on offer including Cheshire Farm Chips and bread from Roberts Bakery.
Branch manager Dickie Danby told the audience Waitrose was raring to go despite doubters on Twitter.
To laughter in the room, he said: “Looking at Twitter last night, clear disbelief that we’d be open on time, and the taxi driver who brought me here tonight said, as I got in the cab, ‘What, that place? You’re opening in a month or two’. No!”
Mr Danby had spoken to many people and said the “excitement and eager anticipation” about the opening was “palpable”. He thanked the citizens of Chester for their “patience while the work has been carried out”.
He added: “All of you who live in the city know the impact of roadworks, I really do appreciate the very generous understanding of those who have been impacted by the roadworks outside the branch for the last few months. I see some smiles in the room!”
Mr Danby continued: “This project you see around you has given us an opportunity to build on our presence in the city with a bigger and better store that will provide all of our customers with a wonderful Waitrose with all our latest products and services. It’s in a really prominent location alongside the canal that runs through the city and we see ourselves as the first stage of the development of Chester’s new central business quarter and we can see the development going on across the canal as we speak, which is really great news for the city.”
Next year he said home deliveries would be available the “length of the Wirral, along the Welsh coast to Abergele and down to Wrexham and beyond”. “We have a huge area we will be looking after,” he added.
Waitrose is a chain of British supermarkets, which forms the food retail division of Britain’s largest employee-owned retailer, the John Lewis Partnership.
Explaining the John Lewis model, Mr Danby stressed the company’s commitment to the community and its workforce. The initial charities being supported are the Countess of Chester Hospital’s Babygrow Appeal, the Flint Lifeboat Station plus Wirral and Chester Riding for the Disabled Association. Staff are also paid to volunteer for good causes in the community over “a few hundred hours every year” , with suggestions welcome .
Mr Danby said staff at Waitrose were known as “partners” because they were coowners of the business entitled to a range of benefits and last year every worker received a bonus worth about eight weeks’ salary. The 180 new Chester staff, who only started training 16 days ago, had been learning at other stores across the North West but also as far as Swindon, Guildford, Cobham, St Katharine’s Dock, Canary Wharf and even Billingsgate Market.