Waitrose expansion reaches Suffolk

UPMARKET food retailer Waitrose opened a new store in Suffolk yesterday - part of a national expansion following its acquisition of 13 former Somerfield branches from the Co-operative Group earlier this year.

UPMARKET food retailer Waitrose opened a new store in Suffolk yesterday - part of a national expansion following its acquisition of 13 former Somerfield branches from the Co-operative Group earlier this year.

The 14,000 sq ft store in Saxmundham, which has undergone a multi-million pound makeover in a matter of weeks, features meat, fish, cheese and delicatessen counters run by specially trained staff, as well as a selection of local speciality foods.

Among the local suppliers are Debenham-based cider and vinegar makers Aspalls, rapeseed oil makers Hill Farm Oils, Suffolk coffee suppliers Paddy & Scotts, St Peter's brewery, Elveden Fine Foods and Eye-based Pesto makers StarkNaked.

Local food retail campaigner Caroline Cranbrook - who previously led the opposition to plans by Tesco for a larger store in Saxmundham - yesterday gave a cautious welcome to the arrival of Waitrose.

“The opening of Waitrose's Saxmundham store today has obviously been a huge success. Everyone I spoke to in the shop was very pleased with the range of food, the way it was set out and the prices of the value lines. I would have like to have seen more locally sourced 'commodity' food, such as carrots, potatoes, onions, and other vegetables, but I am told they are hoping to do this.

“It will undoubtedly benefit Saxmundham since it should bring more people to the town and luckily the store is only a very short distance from the high street.

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“I remain concerned about the competition it will bring to the independent food shops, particularly the farm shops and the delis. However, these have the unique advantage of selling very local food and knowing exactly where it comes from.

“It is here that they have an advantage over the supermarkets and they need to make the most of it by emphasising and advertising locality and freshness. It is up to them to tell us about the special advantages of the food they sell and it is up to us to buy it.”

She added: “I hope everyone who shops at the Saxmundham Waitrose will also visit the Saxmundham high street, with its excellent organic farm shop, butcher, deli and cafes, newsagents, ironmonger, its clothes shops, its weekly market - and much else besides.”

Besides the rebranding of the former Somerfield stores - which the Co-op Group was required to sell on competition grounds, following its acquisition of the chain - Waitrose is also planning to open nine other branches this year, including one in Colchester during the autumn.