NEARLY 1,400 people applied for only 200 jobs at an upmarket supermarket chain opening a new store in an affluent Scottish town.
Recruiters said they had been “overwhelmed” with high-calibre applicants for the part-time and full-time posts at the new Waitrose store, which is due to open in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, this autumn.
Jackie Baillie, MSP for the Dumbarton constituency, which includes Helensburgh, and who had launched a bid to stop the new development, said she welcomed the employment opportunities but that the store’s location on the outskirts of the town could have a negative impact on the town centre.
Those who are hired will become “partners” in employee-owned parent firm John Lewis, meaning they have a say in how the company is run and will be eligible for an annual share of its profits. Earlier this year, partners received a bonus of 17 per cent, the equivalent to around nine weeks’ pay.
Brian Murrie, branch manager for Waitrose Helensburgh, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to our recruitment drive and the calibre of applicants is very high.
“Almost seven people applied for each job, which is similar to the level of demand for jobs we experience for new branches in the UK’s largest cities.”
The company, which holds a royal warrant to supply groceries and wine to the Queen and Prince Charles, has more than 300 outlets in the UK. The Helensburgh store will be its sixth shop in Scotland.
Vivian Dance, an independent councillor for the Helensburgh Central ward, who campaigned for the store to come to the town, said: “There had been a difficult time with resistance from some people and misguided retailers. But while Helensburgh is not an unemployment black spot, there are a good number of people who have to commute to work outside the town, meaning that their wage packet gets eaten into.
“Also, as our supporters’ group pointed out at the planning hearing, it will bring job opportunities for a range of people.”
A spokesman for the union Usdaw, which represents shop workers, said the high number of applicants for Waitrose’s Helensburgh store reflected the economic consequences of the downturn in the economy.
“We welcome new jobs anywhere,” he said. “The John Lewis connection, with its reputation as being one of the better employers, might boost the number of applicants applying but not to any significant extent.
“With more than two and a half million people unemployed, the huge response to job vacancies would have been the same if it had been supermarkets such as the Co-op or Morrisons opening up. The actual employer is almost irrelevant.”