Waitrose is finally coming to town in a small way

Pam Mills

TUNBRIDGE WELLS has scored a partial victory in its never ending campaign to entice Waitrose to establish a presence in the town, it can be revealed.

Speculation that the esteemed grocer will finally set up shop in the Royal town, after years of being snubbed in favour of its neighbours, has reached fever pitch in recent weeks.

Residents could have been mistaken for thinking their prayers had finally been answered when a notice appeared at the site of the now-demolished Shell petrol station on St John’s road which read:
“This site will be closed for major redevelopment. [It will] Reopen on 15th June 2018 as a Waitrose Store. Sorry for the inconvenience. Shell, St John’s.”

However, a spokesman for the upscale supermarket was quick to quell the speculation, issuing a blunt statement to the local press saying: “We have no plans to open a Waitrose branch here at present.”

But The Times can now reveal that this line is only half-true. Waitrose have admitted to this newspaper that whilst they will not have their own actual store, the rebuilt Shell garage will stock its products.

“Waitrose has reached a supply agreement with Shell for its St John’s Road forecourt store in Tunbridge Wells. The retailer will provide around 600 products in a dedicated section of the existing Shell site, which will comprise around two thirds from its own label ranges with the remainder consisting of some of its most popular brands,” a Waitrose spokesman said.

The offer, which will be available from a date to be confirmed this summer, is designed primarily to provide Shell customers with ‘dinner for tonight’ options in addition to a small selection of household, family and personal care products.

Products available will include ingredients for scratch cooking such as fresh meat, sauces, vegetables, pasta and stir fries as well as ready meals, pizzas, fruit, vegetables, cakes and a small selection of wines.
As a supply agreement, the stores will continue to be run by Shell.

Ed Hall, Shell UK Alliance and Strategy Manager, added: “Shell is proud to be working with Waitrose to offer our customers a wider variety of choice, whether they are stopping at our station for a snack, or to pick up their dinner for that evening. The new store at Shell St John’s continues our commitment to offering high-quality, convenient retail experiences.”

Waitrose already has full scale stores in Tonbridge and Crowborough but has argued over the years that it has not been able to find a suitable site in Tunbridge Wells.

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