Waitrose opened its first store in Romsey on 28th August 1969, its 28th store in England. Originally it was situated in a new building in The Hundred where the old jam factory had stood, before it was burnt down.

Needless to say, rumours of the coming of Waitrose had been circulating in the town for weeks before the event, and they were given added credence by the adverts for staff in the Romsey Advertiser, which then was published on Thursdays and cost 4d. The Advertiser also published a plan of the shop showing the layout of the shelves.

The descriptions show how ideas have changed in 50 years. The early adverts were for men to be meat cutters at £16 to £19 per week, or assistants for provisions, fruit, vegetables and warehouse at pay that started at £11 10s (£11.50) for 18 year-olds and rose to ‘at least £15 at 21’. The ‘first hands’ in these departments were being offered £15-£19 per week. The doormen received 6s (£0.30) per hour. Weekend juniors were paid 3/6 (£0.17) an hour. Women were required as check-out operators at £11 per week or 5s (£0.25) an hour.

Another change in attitudes, is that smoking was permitted in the staff dining room, although not elsewhere on the premises.

Although the manager, Mr F. Larter, came from another part of the country, most of the 100 staff were hired locally. The meat manager, warehouse manager and wines manager, who were men, were paid between £1200 and £1500 per annum, the woman check-out manager received £800-£900 and the branch clerk £900-£1100 and her deputy £750-£800. Attitudes have changed and currently the store is being managed by a woman.

The shop boasted of having 7,000 feet (650 m2) of floor space and 2555 feet (779m) of shelving. The current store has 19,000 feet (1765m2) of floor space. There were 8 check-outs four at each end of the shop, and parking for 150 cars. Long- established residents will remember that the shop remained closed on Monday mornings for some years, and kept normal shop hours for the rest of the week. Long opening hours are a relatively recent development.

Many of Romsey’s other grocery shops were in a poor state when Waitrose arrived. Kelsall’s fought back with double greenshield stamps and large adverts in the Romsey Advertiser, but it closed along with all the other groceries in town and it was not for several years before the Co-op made a come back to the town. Then when Waitrose moved to its present site, Aldi’s took over much of its original location.

Phoebe Merrick