Waitrose shoppers react to shock loss of Torquay and Teignmouth branches

The loss of Waitrose in two Devon seaside resorts has been described as a ‘shock’ and ‘devastating’ by shoppers tonight.

Around 200 staff face an uncertain future after bosses confirmed branches in Torquay and Teignmouth will close on Sunday, June 9.

Waitrose & Partners have confirmed the sites have been sold to another, as yet unannounced, retailer.

Torquay’s Waitrose & Partners replaced Somerfield in 2009, and news of its closure has stunned residents in the Plainmoor area of the seaside town.

Here’s what the shoppers think

Sophie Lowe on Torquay’s Waitrose closure

Sophie Lowe said she was ‘devastated’ when told the news by Devon Live reporter Colleen Smith: “I live in St Marychurch and this is my closest supermarket. It’s the bestt one around. My dad lives in Ellacombe and he will be devastated when I tell him.”

Kevin Martin on Torquay’s Waitrose closure

Kevin Martin, who lives in nearby Bronshill Road, was totally shocked by the news as he left Waitrose. He said: “Wow! Wow! I always come here. I’m in shock. I can’t believe it’s shutting. It’s always busy. But I must admit I’ve always said it’s too posh for Plainmoor.”

Doug Perry on shock Waitrose closure

Doug Perry, who works at Torbay Hospital, was upset by the news: “Everything we eat is based around what we get from here. We live in Windsor Road and we are regular customers every couple of days.”

Julie and Kevin Shadbolt

Julie and Kevin Shadbolt run the nearby Alvaston Hotel. They said: “It’s awful that it’s closing. We shop here all the time and we’ve been coming here for five years.”

Nina Chadwick and Chris Cotton

At the Hair Royale salon opposite Waitrose, Chris Cotton and Nina Chadwick were also shocked by the news but Nina said: “I hope it’s going to be a Lidl – I would love a Lidl because Waitrose is expensive and I spend a lot popping in there.”

Business owner Chris Cotton added: “I had no idea it was closing. We use Waitrose daily and it brings in a lot of business – I’ve had two customers today who came out of there and saw us. We were always surprised how well that Waitrose did over there. Waitrose bought a group of Somerfield supermarkets and this one out-performed all the other smaller Waitroses we were told.”

At the Union Inn pub opposite drinkers had mixed views. They said they hoped the new supermarket has toilets because Waitrose customers were always using theirs.

Dave Bratcher

Dave Bratcher said: “We are hoping that Aldi or Lidl goes in there because it will suit the area better.”

Dave Woodward

Dave Woodward said that the two cash machines at Waitrose had been closed for two months so he was not surprised by the news that it’s closing: “Basically it’s a community area and it needs a community shop – as long as it’s not empty. I remember it being empty years ago when it was Phil Reed’s garage – when that closed it was empty for years.”

Cllr Sylvia Russell, a Teignmouth councillor who is Executive lead for Health and Wellbeing on Teignbridge Council, said: “It is devastating and I think they are making the wrong business decision.

“There’s so much going on in Teignmouth and they’ve only got to look at the local plan to see how much Teignbridge is expanding, if only they would look further than the end of their noses. I hope they will reconsider,” she said.

She said that the Waitrose and Partners brand is ‘set apart’ from other supermarkets.

‘We welcome Waitrose and we like having such a well respected brand in our town. There are a lot of people around who are happy to spend a lot of money in Waitrose. It is a real shame.”

Councillor Richard Younger-Ross, Mayor June Green, Chris Reynard opening branch manager, Partner Joanne Gill, Anne Marie Morris MP, Ryan Whittaker, Waitrose department manager at opening of Waitrose Teignmouth in 2014
Councillor Richard Younger-Ross, Mayor June Green, Chris Reynard opening branch manager, Partner Joanne Gill, Anne Marie Morris MP, Ryan Whittaker, Waitrose department manager at opening of Waitrose Teignmouth in 2014

In Torquay, Susie Colley, Chairman of Torquay Chamber of Commerce described the loss of Waitrose as a blow for the town.

“If Waitrose has lost confidence then that’s a bad omen for Torquay.

“When Waitrose opened it lifted the whole demeanour of Plainmoor, they kept the place nice and tidy and it attracted well heeled people from all around to shop there.

“I’m not sure any other supermarket would have the same effect.”

What the retail experts think

Speaking with Devon Live business reporter Hannah Finch, John Kinsey, Leisure and retail expert with JLL in Exeter said that the loss of Waitrose would not have a downward effect on the area.

He said: “When Waitrose moves in, it tends to be used as a benchmark for other retailers looking to open up in areas that attract a similar demographic to Waitrose. But I don’t see it having a downward effect when a Waitrose closes.”

He explained that the stores were bought by Waitrose as part of a wider portfolio when Somerfield was bought by the Co-Op and had to shed stores for reasons of competition.

“Waitrose and Partners is looking to rationalise its portfolio and I suspect that these are locations that are not trading particularly well so perhaps being taken over by a different retailer makes sense.”

Waitrose Torquay

Though there are no suggestions as to who will take over the sites, it is not all bad news if the budget retailers like Aldi or Lidl take over.

Last year, a report by Lloyds Bank found that homes near Waitrose are most likely to command a higher than average price.

But homes near budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidi have seen the biggest boost in value over the past four years.

Mr Kinsey said: “I’m a big fan of the budget operators because they give a good offer and have come in and filled a good chunk of the market that had not been filled for a long time in the UK.

He said that shoppers looking for quality gormet items were just as likely to shop there as those on a budget.

He added: “I’m a big fan of Aldi’s Christmas 30-year old malt whisky. You’d never know it cost £50.”

A spokesman for Teignbridge Council said: “We are saddened to hear the decision by Waitrose & Partners to close its Teignmouth store and feel for those affected.”

What Waitrose said

A spokesperson for Waitrose & Partners said: “We can confirm that we have exchanged contracts to sell our Waitrose shops in Teignmouth and Torquay to another retailer, which regrettably means we will close there on June 9.

“The acquiring party has informed us that they will be undertaking works to both units for an extended period of time with plans likely to be shared at a later date.

Torquay's branch opened in 2009 with branch manager Chris Reynard at the helm
Torquay’s branch opened in 2009 with branch manager Chris Reynard at the helm

“We will be meeting with the 111 Partners who work at Teignmouth and 96 Partners who work at Torquay to ensure they are fully supported and will identify suitable opportunities for those wishing to remain with the business wherever possible.

Waitrose & Partners Regional Manager, Krys Jantzen: “We have taken great pride in being part of the Teignmouth and Torquay communities so the sale of these shops is not something we take lightly, but we have sadly not been able to find a way to make the stores commercially sustainable in the long-term.”

“Our priority is our Partners working in these shops who will be fully supported throughout the process and we will identify opportunities for those wishing to remain with the business wherever possible.”

 

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