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Article and Photographs by Paul Wright, 2021
& Partners

A gentleman drove up from his base in Kent to view the exterior signage of Waitrose in Crown way at the end of July, 2021.

New corporate signage,and Christmas trees on sale.
New corporate signage,and Christmas trees on sale.
You may ask why did he need to do that - the answer to that is that the name on the signage is going to change. So what has said “Food and Home” for many years, is now to proclaim “Waitrose and Partners.”

A planning application had been submitted to North Northamptonshire Council by John Lewis & Partners to reduce the size of the supermarket on Crown Park.

John Lewis was formed back in 1864, with the first shop opening on Oxford Street in London.

Meanwhile Acton in London was the choice of their first Waitrose store, and that was in 1904. Currently there are 332 Waitrose stores.

The Waitrose stores carried only food ranges, with the exception of Rushden, which was rebranded as a Waitrose Food and Home and did have selected stock from John Lewis ranges, when it opened in 2004.

The John Lewis group has seen a big dip in their success recently, and this has resulted in store closures, and the inevitable job losses. And staff did not receive their bonus for the first time in more than 60 years. The decision was taken due to the firm's profit outlook, which had been severely affected by the Covid 19 pandemic.

The owner of John Lewis and Waitrose is planning to cut 1,000 jobs in stores as part of an effort to cut costs.

The group said it was simplifying its store management structures under a plan to reduce costs by £300m a year by 2022.

Through the summer of 2021, a percentage of the shop floor had been sectioned off with screens, including what was the cafe.

Back to the halcyon days of the Rushden store, it was a treat to pay a visit, and the variety on the shop floor was a joy to behold. The television area was always a favourite of mine, and I had purchased many electrical items over the years. But sadly that department has now gone.

Customers may have noticed that certain chiller cabinets were empty with the run up to this work - this was said to be due to a lack of storage. Some of the store area was in darkness, as the false ceilings had been removed for work to be carried out.

During the week commencing 13th September, the fuel pumps and kiosk were getting a makeover on the forecourt area. The former car wash bay was demolished in 2020. As the work was going on, BP tanker driver shortages took an effect on fuel supplies. And as soon as the Tory government said there was no need to panic, well you can imagine what then happened!

Fuel pumps being installed.
Fuel pumps being installed.

The forecourt re-opened on the Saturday morning of 25th September. Motorists did seem to be behaving themselves when I visited the store at midday, but prices were up, and petrol was £1.33 per litre, and diesel was £1.35 per litre.

Around the corner at Croyland motors, they were charging even more for fuel, and this is also a Shell station, the same as Waitrose!

The situation was very spasmodic as days went by, and fuel supplies were hit and miss in several outlets.

Reports in some newspapers suggested that the government was considering getting soldiers in to drive fuel tankers under emergency plans.

When questioned about this, Tory Transport Secretary, Mr Grant Shapps said: “If it can actually help, we will bring them in.”

Up to 150 military tanker drivers will prepare to deliver to forecourts which have run dry because of panic buying.

Doctors, nurses, and unions for teachers, prison and care staff had been calling for essential workers to be given priority for fuel.

This was during the period, when several energy supply companies went out of business, forcing customers to be moved to bigger gas and electricity suppliers.

So as from 29th August, 2021, a refit of the Rushden store took place, with 13 weeks pencilled in as the completion period.

During the weekend of October 9th, one of the newly installed fuel pumps was out of action due to an electrical fault, but the other pumps were unaffected.

New signage.
New signage.

Corporate signage was changed and updated, and a novel name for the filling station, it is now called “Little Waitrose”.

Approaching the end of October and a lot of the exterior work was taking shape. And the patio area was being extended near to the future “Waite and Rose” hot and cold food area.

Building the patio area.
Ready for alfresco.
Building the patio area.
Ready for alfresco.

On the Sunday morning of October 31st, a mini Tornado ripped through several parts of  Northamptonshire, causing damage to trees & fences, and even the overhead electric railway cables at Kettering. This caused problems with train services between Kettering and Corby. Northamptonshire fire service said they received over 130 calls for help.

Motorists should be warned that ANPR cameras are in operation at Waitrose now, the limit is for two and a half hours parking for customers. This might catch a few motorists out, who cheekily park for the Rushden Lakes?

With just a few hours to go before the re-launch, workmen were putting finishing touches to such things as the hedges and plants.

But mother nature was going to have a say in things over that opening weekend, this was in the shape of storm “Arwen” - the name given by the Met office that was to bring high winds and rain for Saturday 27th November, 2021. Many thousand homes in the North of England were without power for well over a week.

The car park was extra busy for the opening, and a fair number of contractors’ vehicles added to the demand for parking spaces.

Having visited the revamped store, it all looks very bright as you would expect, and the car park was very busy again. The former tired looking cafe area has gone. And it now looks as if they are providing a selection of hot and cold food, in bright and comfortable surroundings. I mentioned the new name for the filling station as being “Little Waitrose” - the café also has a name that may resonate with some diners? “Waite & Rose Café”.

The café has been rebranded as the Waite & Rose Café to pay tribute to the two original founders of the supermarket chain; Wallace Wyndham Waite and Arthur Rose.

There is the addition of a community room that may be used by local charity groups and fund raisers.

Customers were mostly wearing face masks; this was in the light of yet another new Covid variant - Omicron, which has been identified, and there are fears that it could be more infectious and less responsive to current vaccines. South Africa was the first country to report on the highly mutated new variant.

The price of petrol had risen to its highest levels since September 2013 following a wave of panic buying across the UK.

By the beginning of December 2021, the price for fuel at Waitrose was £1.43 for a litre of petrol, and Diesel priced at £1.47 per litre.The price of both petrol and diesel at UK filling stations rose in November despite the wholesale cost of the fuels falling.

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