A LARGE supermarket in Leek is to change hands.
Waitrose has this week announced that it has reached an agreement with The Co-operative Group to acquire its shop on Portland Street North, off Buxton Road, in April 2014.
Waitrose, the food store chain of the John Lewis Partnership, has confirmed that all 65 employees at the shop are set to be offered the opportunity to join Waitrose and become partners in the John Lewis Partnership. Waitrose is also hoping to create additional jobs at the branch.
Nigel Keen, Director of Development at Waitrose, said: “We have wanted to open a shop in Leek for a long time, and are looking forward to becoming part of the local community next year and welcoming the new employees to Waitrose and the John Lewis Partnership.” Leek Town Mayor John Fisher said of the announcement: “I am not a big shopper, but Waitrose and John Lewis are top drawer.
“This could really help put Leek on the shopping destination map.
“It's remarkable – I never thought we would get a Sainsbury’s in Leek, let alone a Waitrose.
“Yes I am rather saddened that Co-op is going as they have a strong Fairtrade ethos which I fully support, and hope that Waitrose have just as many Fairtrade lines.
“I am very pleased that the employees’ jobs will be secured.” Leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council Sybil Ralphs said: “This is another example of the growing confidence that investors and developers are showing in the Staffordshire Moorlands. They recognise we are open for business.” The Co-op branch will continue to trade as normal until April 3 next year.
It will then close for around four weeks while the shop is transformed, before opening as a Waitrose in May 2014.
A spokesperson for The Cooperative Group said: “The Cooperative Group can confirm that it is in the process of selling its food store in Leek and has exchanged contracts with Waitrose.
“The store on Portland Street North is being sold as a going concern, and all 65 food staff, 12 fulltime and 53 part-time, will transfer to the new operator with their terms and conditions of employment maintained.
It will continue to trade as a Cooperative store until it transfers to Waitrose next year.
“We are pleased to have concluded a deal which ensures employment for the staff, as well as a continuing service for the local community in which the store is based.” Other Co-op stores which Waitrose is keen to acquire include at Edenbridge in Kent, Hove in East Sussex, Keynsham in Somerset, Locks Heath in Hampshire, Sherborne in Dorset, and Teignmouth in Devon.
A spokesman for Waitrose said: “We expect to create approximately 300 jobs across the seven shops in addition to the 531 Coop staff members who will become Waitrose partners.
“We hope to know a more precise number of jobs for each store in the new year.” A former employee of the Cooperative Food Store in Buxton Road, who wished not to be named, told the Post & Times on Monday: “Staff have been informed today of the announcement and the current staff who I have spoken to are quite relieved at the news as they knew something was happening, but didn't know quite what.
“They are pleased because they have been told that there will be no redundancies and also Waitrose is as ethical as the Co-op Group.” Waitrose will be launching its Community Matters and Partner Volunteering schemes in Leek, which will see £12,000 and 250 hours donated to local causes nominated by customers each year.