Capital store wars as Waitrose sets up shops
The chain has bought stores on Comely Bank Road and Morningside Road, where it is set to go head-to-head with Marks and Spencer.
When the stores re-open in June after conversion, it will be the first time Waitrose have ever operated in Scotland, bringing their number of food shops around the UK to 179.
Community leaders today said the Morningside Waitrose outlet would provide welcome upmarket competition for the new Marks and Spencer food store which is also planned for the area at a site previously occupied by Iceland.
The Morningside outlet will open in the current Morrisons store which was recently bought over by Somerfield. The Comely Bank store has also been bought from Somerfield.
Alastair McKay, deputy chairman of Waitrose owners John Lewis Partnership, said they would bring a different level of quality and service to customers in the city.
He said: "We would claim we are not more expensive (than most supermarkets), but it is the quality of what's on offer that wins the day. Marks and Spencer is a quality retailer and is clearly in competition to Waitrose, but the person going to do their weekly shop will be able to get their goods in Waitrose, but M&S will not have the same range. But we welcome M&S being close to us."
Local councillor Liz O'Malley said: "There were rumours going about as to what was happening to the store and people will be very pleased to know there is now a buyer and that the future of the store is secure.
"It can do nothing but good if there is an element of competition in Morningside Road. What I hope will happen is that it will increase the number of people who come to Morningisde Road to shop and, hopefully, they will then visit the smaller shops."
Tesco is poised to open a store on the site of a former garden centre at nearby Holy Corner. That development has faced massive opposition from local businesses and community leaders amid fears it would spark traffic chaos and kill off traditional shops. But Bridget Stevens, chairwoman of Merchiston Community Council, today welcomed Waitrose's imminent takeover on Morningside Road.
She said: "If we have to have a supermarket there, let it be an upmarket one. I think in general people will welcome that."
Almost 160 staff are currently employed in the 19,000 square-foot Morningside store, with 86 staff in the 20,500 square-foot store at Comely Bank.
The branches will close for conversion for two weeks in June prior to them opening as Waitrose. Employees will be entitled to share in the benefits of employee ownership, including participation in John Lewis Partnership's annual bonus scheme.
"When we have acquired shops in the past the employees have been absolutely delighted to become partners," added Mr McKay. "The partnership is quite unique as the employees are the owners of the business."
Latest figures from John Lewis showed strong trading for Waitrose in 2005, with sales up 13 per cent and profits up 19 per cent.