The John Lewis Partnership seems virtually untouchable in the new era of retailing, with both its self-titled department store chain and Waitrose supermarket subsidiary proving consistently popular with consumers. In fact, executives have this week announced plans to expand the latter on a grand scale, creating up to 2000 new UK jobs in the process.
Following an extremely strong Christmas trading period, the upmarket supermarket brand is bucking the trend in the grocery sector by significantly adding to its store portfolio, with two new openings already under its belt since the start of the New Year.
Meanwhile, middle market rivals including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons are going in the opposite direction by putting the brakes upon further expansion for the foreseeable future and even closing established supermarket and convenience store branches in a number of key locations.
Yet along with opening entirely new branches, Waitrose intends to up staffing levels at existing stores as a means of providing a better service for its customers.
Director of development Nigel Keen says; “Our expansion story continues as we take the brand to more customers.
“Last year many of our branches received more than 10 applications for every vacancy, so we’re delighted to be able to create an additional 2000 roles in 2015.”
Although most of the new openings will take place in London and the south east, Waitrose will also focus upon expanding into new locations, with Wollaton in Nottinghamshire and Milngavie in East Dunbartonshire both to welcome their first Waitrose stores later this year. In total, the chain will unveil 14 new stores by the end of the year including the Egham, Surrey and Walbrook, London branches already open for business.
The majority of new positions will be split between Waitrose’s larger supermarkets and its convenience store network, yet logistical workers will also be taken on when the supermarket chain opens its new e-commerce depot in Coulsdon, south London. This will replace the existing depot in Acton, west London, and will create a new net 100 jobs due to increasing demand in Waitrose’s multi-channel operations.
One of the most highly anticipated new openings will take place in King’s Cross, London, in which Waitrose will also establish a bespoke cookery school in conjunction with its normal retail template. This will be one of the larger stores to open this year, contributing significantly to the 230,000 sq ft of selling space scheduled to launch before the end of 2015.
While discounters continue to plague the big four by forcing them to lower prices and examine their offering, Waitrose has remained relatively untouched by the phenomenon. In fact, there has been something of a polarising effect taking place in the grocery sector of late, with brands at the top and bottom end of the price scale performing exceptionally and those in the middle left scrambling to make ends meet.
Should this continue, Waitrose’s expansion plans may even be more ambitious by the time the next New Year arrives.
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