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21 October, 2011

Boris Johnson visits new Waitrose Dotcom Fulfilment Centre

Over 200 new jobs for the Capital - 1,200 by 2012

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, will today visit Waitrose’s first dedicated Dotcom Fulfilment Centre in Acton, West London. The Centre has created over 200 new jobs in the capital, as well as increasing capacity for online business in the city for the retailer.

The Mayor will meet with the Fulfilment Centre’s new employees, most of whom are local and have now become Partners in Waitrose, a division of the John Lewis Partnership. Over half of the new Partners were previously unemployed.

Tony Solomons, Retail Director, Waitrose, said: “This Centre is an important step in developing our presence in the capital and we’re very pleased, particularly in this tough job market, to have so many excellent local people joining our business as Partners. We have ambitious plans for growth in London, and by the end of 2012, we plan to open a record number of branches in the capital. This combined with increased capacity at the Dotcom Fulfilment Centre will provide 1,200 additional jobs in the next 14 months in London. ”

Waitrose's commitment to providing jobs for local people supports the Mayor's belief that despite the current economic climate there is a pool of talented Londoners that can be tapped into and given vital employment opportunities.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "These are challenging times for employers looking to create jobs and opportunities and so it is great news that Waitrose is expanding its operations back in its spiritual home of West London. Scores of previously unemployed people are now hard at work in this fantastic new facility, dispatching orders with impressive speed and accuracy to customers across the capital. Improving skills through training, work experience and apprenticeships is vital for our long term prosperity and here at City Hall we are doing all we can to champion the role that major employers such as Waitrose can play."

The new 37,000 sq ft Dotcom Fulfilment Centre (sometimes known as a “dark store”) is just like a normal supermarket but, instead of customers shopping the aisles, Waitrose Partners (employees) follow the one-way system around the Centre with extra-large trolleys that mean they can pick product from shelves, chillers, freezers, bakery and dedicated “service counter” areas (for fresh meat, fish, cheese and deli) for six orders at a time.

In addition to bringing new jobs to London, the new Dotcom Fulfilment Centre also means Waitrose will step up its presence in the online grocery shopping market in the capital, and because of the increased capacity, will give customers enhanced levels of service. The focus for new Partners will be giving customers the “personal touch” service for which Waitrose.com is famous - meeting requests for green bananas or extra-thick slices of ham, for example.

Waitrose - the fastest-growing online grocery retailer over the last year* - has offered online shopping in London since July this year and, until now, orders have been met by 19 existing branches in the capital which have seen staggering increases in volumes - orders have tripled over the past 10 weeks in some cases.

The Centre will offer customers one-hour delivery slots and there will be an extra 10 hours for weekday deliveries as the window is extended to 7 am - 11 pm (currently 8 am - 10 pm). One thing that won’t change - Waitrose continues to be the only major online grocery retailer offering all-year-round free delivery for all orders over £50.

The Centre will initially handle two thousand orders a week from customers but this number is expected to grow significantly over the coming months - at full capacity the Centre will become the largest food-only Waitrose branch. Working in parallel with the Centre, fourteen Waitrose branches will continue to deliver orders for customers in some parts of the city.

In developing the Centre, Waitrose has focused on giving customers top quality service while making efficient use of resources. The facility has been created in just six months from a former John Lewis distribution centre with a relatively modest investment of £3m in conversion costs.

Waitrose is aiming to open 20 new ‘Little Waitrose’ convenient stores in and around the capital by the end of 2012, this is the largest number of branches Waitrose has ever opened in the area in one year since the company’s first shop opened in Acton in 1904, near to where the Dotcom Fulfilment Centre is now operating.

- ENDS -

Media contacts:

Hannah Chance, Waitrose Press Office, Mob: 07506 452 222 or 07525 273303 or email hannah_chance@waitrose.co.uk

Steve Wrelton, Mayor’s Press Office, Mob: 07825 521 697 or email Steve.Wrelton@london.gov.uk

Notes to Editors:

Notes to editors:

*Kantar data, 52 weeks to 4th September 2011

· Partnership card customers can earn triple points when using their card on Waitrose.com for Grocery and Wine orders throughout October and November

· Waitrose launched online grocery deliveries in 2000

· Online groceries are available from over 95 per cent of Waitrose branch catchment outside of the M25

· Waitrose has 71 shops inside the M25 - 19 of these have been servicing online orders since July. Fourteen will continue to do this in parallel with the new centre.

About Waitrose

Waitrose currently has 267 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands. Its recent strong performance has been driven by the success of the essential Waitrose range, its partnership with Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal and an unmatchable top tier of products including the ‘Duchy Originals From Waitrose’ range.

Waitrose combines the convenience of a supermarket with the expertise and service of a specialist shop - dedicated to offering quality food that has been responsibly sourced combined with high standards of customer service. (www.waitrose.com)

About the GLA

The Mayor is working with business to support employment in London by increasing the provision of on the job training and apprenticeship places. Over 30,000 apprentices have already been created and the Mayor has set a new target of reaching 100,000 by the end of next year.

Following the recent London riots, the Mayor will be investing £70m in the long-term regeneration of town centres, which will include working to improve employment outcomes for Londoners.

This funding is in addition to the Mayor's existing £50 million Outer London Fund, set up to help improve areas of London that are not directly benefitting from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

For more information contact:

Hannah Chance
t:01344 826804
e: hannah.chance@waitrose.co.uk