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Customers hand staff flowers as Waitrose closes down in Camden High Street

Supermarket to be replaced by an Aldi

13 September, 2018 — By Helen Chapman, Rory Cameron

THE sliding doors locked shut at Waitrose in Camden Town for the final time yesterday (Wednesday) as the supermarket checked out of the high street.

Customers appeared with flowers as regulars said they wanted to thank staff and give the store a proper send-off. Trading at the branch ceased at 2pm. The store is set to become an Aldi after a six-month refurbishment.

Robel Araia, the team manager at Waitrose, said: “It is sad for me as it is a five-minute walk from where I live. I’m a Camden boy. All of my neighbours, aunts and family loved coming here.”

He added: “Our customers depended on Waitrose. We had an elderly brother and sister who would come in, buy their items, then they would sit down in these chairs [at the front of the shop], turn them around and people-watch for at least two hours. They wrote us a thank-you letter and gave us gifts. There’s a community here, where you can have a chat. We like to give our time to the customers – they won’t get the same sort of service elsewhere.”

The high street is now the scene of a fierce battle between competing supermarkets. Waitrose opened four years ago, close to the Marks & Spencer food hall. Tesco have since opened a branch a few doors down, and Lidl operate on the other side of the road. Sainsbury’s remains close by with its flagship store in Camden Road and a smaller store closer to Mornington Crescent. Fans of the Waitrose, however, said they valued the bench at the front of the store where they sat drinking tea and coffee, while local foodbanks received large donations.

Dorothea Hackman, secretary of Euston Foodbank, said: “These people have supported us every week. It is a great loss for the foodbank. The local foodbank received hundreds and hundreds of kilos of food a month from the permanent collection point.” She added: “Staff have always given us a cup of coffee while waiting and have been very helpful. More than that, it is a loss of a lovely branch.”

Robel Araia talks about the shop’s closure

Anne Degert, who was among the customers who handed flowers to staff as a final farewell, said: “Waitrose will be missed because it built up a relationship with the community, much more than the other shops of the area. “I am French you see, so when I came here I wanted to have ‘un café en terrasse’ but it is difficult in this country. Here at Waitrose I was able to sit and have my café and watch the world go by.”

Waitrose shops in Finchley Road, West Hampstead and Holloway are not part of the partnership’s site closures.

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “The sale was not something we took lightly, but we had found trading challenging there for some time and, despite everyone’s best efforts, the shop was sadly not going to be commercially viable for us in the long term.”

Waitrose confirmed that 36 staff members took redundancy and 26 relocated to other stores.

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