On the face of it closing four out of 355 stores doesn't seem like a big deal for Waitrose unless, of course, you live in Caddicote, Ipswich, Shrewsbury or (hell, of hells) Wolverhampton and are called Camilla or Toby, in which case where will you buy your fresh samphire and shaved pancetta? The problem is particularly stark in Wolverhampton because Waitrose is being turned into a Tesco (for heaven's sake) and this is tantamount to being on the way to The Maldives and being told you are diverting to Alicante.
Waitrose said (in an accent that couldn't quite be placed, but it appeared to hail from somewhere near Guildford): “We have found trading challenging in these four shops and, despite the best efforts of partners, we have not been able to find a way to make them profitable in the long-term.”
Well, try for the love of God, TRY" scream the housepeople of Shewsbury. To no avail, it appears.
The latest closures come after John Lewis permanently closed eight of its 50 department stores in July, including big outlets in Birmingham and Watford, with the likely loss of 1,300 jobs. What's more there are reports today (Wednesday 16 September) that up to 50 per cent of one of its flagship stores in London is going to be turned into offices. Overall Waitrose is making a fist of the recent ... issues. Its profits rose by £10 million to £213 million in the year to January, boosted by the sale of unwanted stores. Excluding that one-off benefit, profits fell £6 million, hit by higher costs including staff pay. Sharon White now has her prodigious feet under the desk and sparks are starting to fly all over the John Lewis Group. She is due to share her vision for the future in October but will spoil the first half of the party by revealing a heavy first-half loss for the group’s department stores and reduced profits at Waitrose.
But you just love their bread, right?