UPDATE: Councillor describes proposed Dartford Waitrose closure as a 'devastating blow' (From News Shopper)
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UPDATE: Councillor describes proposed Dartford Waitrose closure as a 'devastating blow'
WAITROSE looks set to close its branch at the Orchards Shopping Centre in Dartford, putting hundreds of jobs at risk in a move described as a “devastating blow” by a councillor.
The supermarket giant has this morning confirmed it is proposing to shut the branch in March next year, saying it is struggling to make the store “commercially sustainable.”
The possible closure means that 128 people are at risk of becoming unemployed.
Councillor for Temple Hill ward Matt Bryant told News Shopper: “Not only are we losing a store but customers and local shoppers being denied a choice of supermarkets to shop at.
“It sends a really bad signal about the sort of shops welcome in Dartford.
“During the time we have been waiting for Tesco’s to put forward new plans for Lowfield Street, we have seen the Co-op knocked down and the high street has become dominated by betting shops and payday lenders.”
Councillor Bryant added: “The potential failure of Waitrose could be something to do with the failure to breathe life in to the town centre.
“Local people have really lost confidence in the town centre, which is a massive issue and concern for us.
“It is being assumed Waitrose is closing because people don’t shop there, which is clearly not the issue as demonstrated by the outcry on social media sites.
“It’s a devastating blow.”
Waitrose director of retail operations Stephen Hider said the company understands the “disappointment” the decision will cause to shoppers.
He said: “We made a major investment in Dartford with every expectation that the shop would be successful.
“Since opening nine years ago though, we have found trading at the branch extremely challenging and, despite the best endeavours of our partners, we have not been able to make the branch commercially sustainable.”
Looking ahead to the next stage, he added: “We will be meeting with each Dartford partner over the coming weeks and will endeavour to ensure they remain with the business, whatever the outcome of the consultation, as their expertise and experience is invaluable.
“We would like to thank our customers for their loyal custom during our time of trading at Dartford.”
A petition has already been launched online campaigning for the store to be kept open.
The petition, which has 152 signatures so far, says those signing it "support a high quality supermarket" and want to "protect the jobs of local people."
What should Waitrose-loving shoppers do now?
Councillor Bryant said: “The main thing is for people to shop there.
“If people want the shop to stay open they need to put their money where their mouth is and start handing cash over at the till.
“A social media campaign will also be helpful by tweeting your reasons why you like shopping at Waitrose and why you want it to stay open.
“It will demonstrate to the head office why it is necessary.”
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