Is this the end of the middle classes as we know them? Waitrose is planning to close six stores, putting 500 jobs at risks, it has been reported.
The supermarket, beloved of the chattering classes, has begun consulting with staff at six locations in Hertford, Staines, Leek, Huntingdon, Cardiff and Palmers Green (although the latter is likely to be replaced by a new store nearby).
Waitrose said 498 permanent roles will be affected by the closures.
“We'd always try hard to avoid closing branches but we review how our shops are doing commercially and respond where we have to," said Ben Stimson, retail director at Waitrose.
"We'll be consulting with our branch partners on these proposed closures and will make sure they have all the support they need.”
Social media users tweeted their dismay.
First Jamie's Italian, now Waitrose. Everything is spiralling into a chasm of despair https://t.co/xJDTvz9xkg
— Josh Barrie (@joshbythesea) February 9, 2017
frankly devastated that my local Waitrose is closing in September
— Ben (@b_nmrrs) February 9, 2017
However, the company added it is planning to open eight new shops in 2017, creating 600 jobs.
Meanwhile, the retailer is planning on scrapping a level of management altogether across 350 of its stores. It will ditch its department manager roles altogether, with most of the 486 roles becoming deputy store managers, while 180 will go altogether over three years through retirement, turnover and voluntary redundancies.
The news came shortly after data showed Waitrose's share of the grocery market had edged up just 0.1 percentage points in the past year. Figures published on Tuesday by Kantar Worldpanel showed Waitrose had just 5.3 per cent of the grocery market in the 12 weeks to the end of January – just below Aldi's 6.2 per cent. Tesco came top of the list, with 28.1 per cent.
Yesterday Amazon announced plans to muscle in Waitrose in the Home Counties with the launch of its grocery delivery service in Hampshire and Surrey.
AmazonFresh includes offerings from retailers such as Paxton & Whitfield, Winston Churchill's cheesemonger of choice, and Gail's, the ever-popular artisan bakery.