Hugs and tears as Stevenage's Waitrose shuts down

PUBLISHED: 16:15 28 October 2019

The closure affects 97 members of staff, with some made redundant and some relocated to other Waitrose stores. Picture: Nicky Williams.

The closure affects 97 members of staff, with some made redundant and some relocated to other Waitrose stores. Picture: Nicky Williams.

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A high street supermarket branch has closed its doors for the final time, after 41 years of trading.

Heartfelt speeches formed part of the final moments Waitrose in Stevenage Old Town remained open. Picture: Julie Lucas.Heartfelt speeches formed part of the final moments Waitrose in Stevenage Old Town remained open. Picture: Julie Lucas.

There were tears and hugs at Waitrose in Stevenage Old Town, with heartfelt speeches made at 4pm yesterday as the final ever transactions were rung through the tills.

One shopper said: "It's been a very welcoming place and the staff have barely changed. That's a rare thing and something that goes a long way. Of all the shops to close in Stevenage, this should not have been one of them. To all the lovely staff, we will miss you."

Another added: "For many of us, it's the wonderful staff who have retained our loyalty. Always kind, polite, helpful, friendly and always with a ready smile. It has always been a pleasure to shop in Waitrose."

The company first confirmed the closure in July, saying it had not been able to find a way to make the shop commercially sustainable in the long-term.

Stevenage's Waitrose store has now closed down. Picture: Maya DerrickStevenage's Waitrose store has now closed down. Picture: Maya Derrick

An online petition, mounted in a bid to save the store, was signed by more than 2,100 people, demonstrating the importance of the shop in the community.

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The closure affects 97 staff, with some made redundant and others relocated to other Waitrose stores.

Branch manager Carl Knapp said: "Despite all the kind custom, and dedication from the partners in store, Waitrose was simply unable to find a way to make the store profitable in the long-term.

The empty shelves as the store prepares to permanently close. Picture: Nicky Williams.The empty shelves as the store prepares to permanently close. Picture: Nicky Williams.

"The last day had a rather strange feel, a mix of emotions, hugs, tears, smiles and support right up until closing.

"A huge 'thank you' to our loyal customer base who helped us sign off in style."

Ashley Broad, regional manager for Waitrose, said: "We have been grateful for all the stories, support and best wishes we have received from customers and former partners who have visited the store in the past week - we are going to miss being part of the community.

"I would also like to thank our team there for all their continued hard work and dedication through a very challenging time.

"We've been proud to serve Stevenage for more than 40 years and we wish the best for the town and its residents in the future."

The post office in the Old Town Waitrose branch shut down last Wednesday and, while a spokesman said it is "committed to maintaining service in the area", a new location has yet to be announced.

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