Is Waitrose struggling to make a go of it?
HAS Waitrose miscalculated demand?
Prior to Waitrose opening in Wells all the talk was of shops on the High Street being put out of business and massive traffic jams on and around Whiting Way. As far as I am aware, no one was questioning whether Waitrose could actually make a go of it in Wells. Maybe now they should.
On the face of it, the current evidence for the new store doesn't look good.
On the occasions that I have visited there have been few customers in the store, no queues at the checkouts and the car park has never been more than half full. On Whiting Way the traffic is flowing freely. Another sign that demand may not be meeting expectation is the large number of goods that are being reduced in price each day. These are typically items with a short shelf life like bread, meat, fish, pizzas and prepared salads.
The store needs a high level of customer throughput to keep replenishing these items with fresh ones.
If they can't, they have to try to clear them through drastic price reductions, often up to half price, before they have to be thrown away. Another indication of the difficulties at the store is that items are now being 'thinned out' on the shelves. Take the flower and plants section – there must be about half the number of items on the shelves now compared with when the store opened in July.
Now, I'm not suggesting that Waitrose will be forced to close – a national retailer like John Lewis can always subsidise a new store during the initial opening period – but with several supermarkets already available to local residents and in an area where the population is not great, in my opinion, demand was never going to be high for a 'premium end' store like Waitrose.
Over the years, the population of Wells has shown itself to be loyal to its local High Street.
It is quite pleasing to now see that Waitrose appears to be the store with the challenge on its hands rather than the local retailers. Costa Coffee take note.