Speaking to The Grocer at the opening of the last of its five Safeway conversions this year in St Katherine Docks in London, MD Steven Esom said that the company’s aggressive expansion ambitions, which included 24 new stores in the past 18 months, would continue.
“We have a pretty healthy organic development plan, but most
of our growth will come through acquisitions,” he said. “Our core competencies are in converting stores and retraining staff quickly, so that is what we have to look at.”
Waitrose’s recent acquisitions include 19 stores from Morrisons last year and five more in August this year. It also recently announced the acquisition of another Morrisons store in Biggin Hill in Kent, which it aims to open in February next year, and is building a 25,000 sq ft store in Kenilworth town centre, which is due to open at the end of 2007. The Kenilworth store will be its first in Warwickshire and extends its push in the north.
Esom said: “There are definitely more opportunities in the north, and again it’s all about acquiring sites. There are another two sites in Manchester we’re looking at, so we want to consolidate our position.”
Waitrose will not be looking outside the UK for new sites.
Meanwhile, Waitrose has kicked off a series of initiatives aimed at building on its relationships with farmers and bridging the divide between farmers and the consumer. In his inaugural speech as president of the Royal Agricultural Society for England, Sir Stuart Hampson, chairman of Waitrose parent company the John Lewis Partnership, called on other retailers to take a more proactive role as intermediaries between farmers and customers. He said it was an essential step in safeguarding the future of the countryside and farming.
As part of JLP’s efforts, Waitrose is launching workshops for farmers, offering business advice on being competitive; ‘meet the farmer’ branch visits to introduce them to customers; and a seasonal ‘adopt a farmer’ scheme with local producers supplying selected branches and providing in-store tastings.
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