Waitrose – where the middle classes do their food shopping when they can’t get to Marks & Spencer. But it wasn’t always like that. Before we moved to Oxford we were loyal and regular customers of our local Waitrose for more than 20 years. Over the time the store had its ups and downs (I remember a period of two or three years when their fresh fruit & veg were definitely sub-standard) but in recent times they had got their act together and provided a good and friendly service.
Then we moved to Headington. We got to quite like Somerfields before it closed, but waited eagerly for Waitrose to open in May 2009. We’d imagined that for their first store in a prestigious city they would try really hard to get it running smoothly as quickly as possible. For the first few months we were frustrated by the poor levels of stock, and became tired of the mantra “We’re only a small store” when we queried yet another item with a “temporarily unavailable” shelf label. You manage a small store, surely, by restricting the number of lines you carry but making sure you keep these in stock. Conversations with various managers over specific problems never led to anything, even when we were promised a call-back or email.
Since then it’s improved a little, but still almost every time we go some basic everyday item is unavailable. Twice in the last month I’ve called in with a short shopping list of four or five items and come out with only one or two. It’s frustrating and depressing. While we used to spend over £100 a week in Waitrose we probably spend less than £30 now, with our business going instead to Marks and the Co-op. It’s Waitrose’s loss, but I wish it were different. I’d like to support my local store (and the Co-op does quite well out of us) but the M&S near the Mini factory has free parking and the one in town is handy when one of us is down there. Sorry, Waitrose, but you’ll have to try harder.