Waitrose confirms closure plan for its George Street store

The cry went out from horrified shoppers all across Croydon: “But where am I to get my lemongrass?”

Closing down: Waitrose will leave a gaping hole on George Street

Waitrose, the supermarket of choice for all those eager young professionals paying over-the-odds for “executive apartments” in Croydon town centre, this morning confirmed its plan to close its store on George Street, subject to consultation with those working there. Around 70 jobs will be lost.

The closure of the large store puts yet another gaping hole in Croydon Council’s policy of regenerating the dilapidated and run-down town centre, with Mayor Jason Perry gormlessly still expressing a desire to deal with the same Westfield developers who have broken every promise made to Croydon over the past decade.

Waitrose can have few complaints about lack of customer footfall for its Croydon shop, sited close to East Croydon Station between Boxpark and Macdonald’s.

It will close its doors on George Street for a final time on November 12. It is one of two store closures (the other being in Newcastle) announced by the business yesterday.

“We have found trading challenging here in the last few years and, despite the best efforts of Partners, we have not been able to find a way to make the shop profitable in the long-term,” a Waitrose spokesperson told Inside Croydon.

Much missed: Waitrose on George Street offered giggles as well as groceries

The store has 70 staff – or Partners, as Waitrose and John Lewis call their employees.

“If the proposed closure goes ahead, every effort will be made to find new roles for those who wish to remain within the Partnership,” the spokesperson said.

“Opportunities will include transferring to local Waitrose shops or working for johnlewis.com and waitrose.com.”

The closure marks the complete exiting of central Croydon by John Lewis. They closed their At Home store on Purley Way in 2020.

All suggestions of John Lewis and Waitrose becoming anchor tenants, in the old Allders building, as part of the Westfield redevelopment of the town centre, were abandoned some time ago.

Waitrose have traded on George Street since around 2009, taking over the site from what had previously been a Safeway supermarket.

Today, James Allen, the head of retail for Waitrose, said: “We appreciate that this is incredibly difficult news for our Croydon Partners and customers.

“We have taken great pride in being part of the community, so the proposed closure is not something we take lightly and without having looked at all the alternatives.

“I am extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication shown by all our Partners working there and we will do everything we can to support them through this challenging time.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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36 Responses to Waitrose confirms closure plan for its George Street store

  1. Tim says:

    Hilarious! North, East & West Croydon are truly lost causes. South Croydon seems to be the only shining light of this borough. But how long before Croydon Council decide to ruin that too?

    • It’s not hilarious. Ppl’s livelihoods depended on the regeneration of the entire area proposed. I know several ppl who even invested in Croydon only for them to be screwed over and are now cutting their losses. The council will blame Brexit, then Covid, then the recession, etc,etc but Croydon Council and system are entirely corrupted. Do they they care…NO! Sure, they know how to build empty apartment blocks which never fill, but they morally fail to understand how to build a community and think throwing lots of money at anything is the answer. The only person who actually wants to get sh** done and actually cares is the owner and author of Inside Croydon. LOL.

      • Awww, that’s very kind of you. But there are others who care. It’s just a pity that they are not the ones who are really running the borough – such as the council CEO and exec directors, who cruise on regardless, with little accountability.

  2. Very sad news , when the store unit became a Safeway store it was amazing , really fresh food and continental food .
    Soon after 2000 or so it briefly became a Morrisons then a Waitrose .
    I can well remember the staff who had survived being overjoyed that it had become a Waitrose .
    In its hey day it was brilliant , surprised it doesnt make a profit but I suppose hard times and competition ( one Tram stop more and you have Lidl’s .

  3. Dan Kelly says:

    It was a Somerfield when taken over from the Co-op Group circa 2009. I have a vague memory of Morrisons being involved with the shop at some time.
    George Street is going down hill fast. The facade of Allders looks awful, especially the canopy and the site of the undertakers with its clock is now just a pile of rubble.

  4. Diana Pinnell says:

    I had no idea there was a Waitrose on George Street, I go to Croydon so rarely!

  5. 96 says:

    When Waitrose first opened there, it got so busy at lunchtimes they gave out free chocolates to those in the queues. How times change.

  6. Steve says:

    For years, the Croydon branch seems to have been badly managed. Endless products on yellow label expiration clearance and dozens of other lines with green “Sorry, out of stock” stickers. The JLP/W distribution system doesn’t seem to be very responsive to supply and demand. Perhaps it’s also the same at other branches. Let’s face it; nothing vaguely upmarket sits right in Croydump now! I’m expecting House of Fraser to get out whenever they can break out from their lease.

    Croydon Council have overseen years of decline in what was once a very smart suburb. They’re too ignorant/arrogant/stupid to realise that Westfield never intended to rebuild – that was obvious 5+ years ago. LBC can’t even empty the litter bins and keep the streets clean and tidy.

    I get on the train to Clapham Junction – everything is there and the demographic is COMPLETELY different.

    • Martin Rosen says:

      Steve, House of Fraser went into administration 4 years ago! The Croydon store is now owned by Sports Direct, and it seems likely to me that when the lease expires the store will be closed. But if it does reopen, it will surely be as a Sports Direct store.

      BTW I agree about Clapham. I was there last week and was hugely impressed by the retail facilities around Clapham Junction station!

    • Dan Kelly says:

      You will find the same in Lidl Church Street and Tesco Extra at Purley. Lots of empty spaces on shelfs.

  7. Paolo says:

    Every time someone remarked that Croydon is a hole, I could retort with “That can’t be, we’ve got a Waitrose!”

    No more 🙁

  8. Mayor Perry has just tweeted the following message –

    “I’m disappointed to hear that @waitrose have proposed to close their East Croydon store and know many of our residents will be to [sic].

    “I have reached out to Waitrose + Partners to discuss their plans & I remain committed to working to support the recovery of Croydon town centre.”

  9. Sarah O'Dell says:

    It was a really useful store and get our fruit here every week after some bad experiences with other stores going mouldy quickly. It was pretty good value with their weekly waitrose vouchers. Loved their £1 grape packs when we weren’t eating enough to make the larger packs worthwhile.

    Any reduction in stores is a sad day and we for one will definitely miss it,

  10. Odds on next enterprise to replace Waitrose on George Street:

    – Pound shop EVS
    – Premises left empty for many years EVS
    – Lidl 3/1
    – Aldi 3/1
    – Amazon Fresh Store 4/1
    – Casino 8/1
    – Halal butchers 8/1
    – Bookie shop(s) 12/1
    – Pawnbrokers 33/1

    RIP Croydon. Only two good things left now are probably M&S and the subsidised and overpriced Boxpark

    Sad,

  11. Matt Hollander says:

    I really think you need to reconsider that photo of the store front. Count or..

  12. Mariko Brown says:

    This is very sad news and thanks for reporting. I noticed the signs up today. I’m not one of those ‘ eager young professionals paying over-the-odds for executive Apartments ‘ or someone who is crying out ‘ where will I get my lemon grass ‘ but I am indeed a horrified shopper, crying out internally and especially for the older community who rely on Waitrose as their main supermarket due to te convenience of location and variety of products, with enough products that are actually cheaper than Sainsburys or Co-op or Tescos. Like you say, it has a good footfall so what has caused this to happen – is it bad management as suggested above, or increasingly high rent from Croydon Council ( which I think also drove out the much loved Smoothbean / Smooth cafe bar ? ) …

  13. It’s a shame that Waitrose feel they aren’t able to make this store profitable in the long term. Right on its doorstep, new residential flats are being built and the Ruskin Square office development is being extended by the Government Property Agency.

    The leasehold on the property occupied by the store sold for £4.2m in May 2009, presumably bought by Waitrose. However, the freehold sold for £17.5m in January 2015 to who knows. It’s not unknown for greedy landlords to prefer having an empty property than a tenant who they think isn’t paying enough.

    • derekthrower says:

      Good point Arfur. Such big figures will influence what is going on. We also know Waitrose is not your standard profit making company being owned by it’s employees who are reliant on the bonuses paid by it’s profitability. It strikes me that this site is not the most modern of facilities and it doesn’t fit into being one of their local stores or has the size of their more modern shops. Indeed they recently closed a similar size shop in Burnt Ash Lane, Bromley and seems to fit in a longer term strategy Waitrose are now pursuing. Got to say it was still a more impressive retail outlet than it’s competitors in this local facility. A sad loss.

  14. Marie Dawson says:

    Thank goodness for M&S someone says. But even they don’t do all the upmarket lines and for that you have to go elsewhere. Less and less to go into Croydon for and when do,
    always come away feeling depressed.

  15. miapawz says:

    Next and marks will be the the only shops left. Pray for Argos and boots. H&M gone, Allders gone (sob) and House of Frazer reminds me of one of those wasps that eats things from the inside. Nothing left.

  16. Lewis White says:

    That end of George Street, going up to E Croydon station, feels very empty of people and activity nowadays, perhaps due to the near absence of traffic apart from trams and buses.

    Plus the demise of much local office work –Nestle relocation years ago, followed by Direct Line etc etc. No workers shopping at lunch or on the way home.

    I hate to say it, and I know that the trams are fantastic for everyone from New Addington and Elmers End to Wimbledon, but where trams stop other traffic coming through, there’s a strangely deadening effect, very European in feel.

    Shame that Waitrose couldn’t hold on a bit longer, until all those blocks being built now are occupied by Air B and B customers. Oops, misplaced joke, sorry !

    I meant, by all those hungry, high-rise living yuppies

    • Yes, that’s right Lewis. What would revive Croydon’s fortunes is traffic. Let’s reopen North End, the High Street and George Street to motors, allow people to park where the fuck they like for nothing, and raise the speed limit. And for entertainment, use Wellesley Road for stock car racing on Saturday evenings. That’ll have the punters flooding in, and give the casualty staff at Mayday some work at the weekend.

      • Mariko Brown says:

        Lewis , I’m not sure when you tend to walk up George Street but having lived on that stretch for over a decade it has remained very busy and, especially for the many of us without cars, it is the most convenient and accessible supermarket which covers pretty much all one needs.

        In terms of local office workers however that is a good point as it has affected the local gym and Smooth cafe ( which is why they changed from a cafe to cafe bar in an attempt to survive the super high rent and the failed promises of the council to support them) and probably affected footfall in Waitrose.

        However , so many flats are being built and there will be no shops, supermarkets, schools, doctors surgeries etc ..

        • Mariko-san,

          The schools have been built outside the town centre on cheaper land. These schools mainly have over capacity.

          East Croydon Medical Centre is being re-built and becoming a very large GP hub. It currently operates from Edridge Road.

          • Mariko Brown says:

            Thank you Andrew, good to know. Hope things can get better for, and in , Croydon.

  17. Lewis White says:

    Duly chastened by the above comments on my comment, nevertheless I can’t recant about the non-event of a town centre experience that is and has been Croydon for decades. I guess that it is the crowded bustle I miss.

    A look at old photos of Victorian Croydon show that intensity, of a pedestrian and horse-and cart/ omnibus-thronged High Street and George Street.

    This is the way Surrey Street used to be. Packed. Standing room only, like a pub on a Saturday morning when pubs used to close at lunchtime and not stay open until well after midnight. So sad, Allders, Grants, Kennards…. all gone gone gone . (weep)

    Oh well, important not to live in the past. Got to adjust to a quieter, half-cock future, until the new developments come on stream.

    Like many Inside Croydon readers, I was a lot younger when I started waiting for renewal of the St George’s Walk area, and now, for a creative redevelopment of the Whitgift, but sadly, looks like I will be a decade older before it comes about.

    Maybe people like me who like a bit of a busy experience could in a few years wear virtual-reality headsets, giving a visual, aural, scent , even a taste and tactile experience, so that, when walking boredly through an empty modern central Croydon street, one could select from a range of options– Elizabethan Croydon, where street urchins would clamour for a farthing, and one would have to dodge the contents of a chamber pot ejected from an upper window of Crown Hill– or a swinging 60’s Croydon, with crowds of shoppers and office workers, mini-skirted women with Twiggy haircuts, and blokes in suits and narrow ties …… 1960’s -1980’s Surrey Street, full of barrers, traders’ shouts, and Canary Island tomaters, sweet as a nut…. etcetera.

    Arfur has just made me realise why I love living in Coulsdon!
    Yeah–it’s full of bustle. People, buses..and the C(ars) word. Even the odd bike and motor bike. On-street shopper parking and two busy supermarkets (one Waitrose and Aldi), with c… parks! In just a few years, they will be electric, so a lot of the objection from people like me (about pollution) will have gone !

    Yeah…bustle.

    Fanks Arfur

    • There are two other Waitrose stores in Croydon: at Coulsdon and in Sanderstead. Both have car parks.
      M&S are opening on the Purley Way, with a car park (as others suspect, too, possibly as a precursor to quitting their Whitgift Centre site).
      The trams haven’t done for Waitrose on George Street, but without a car park their average customer will have been buying a basket-load of goods, rather than a car boot-load. And with rents in Croydon town centre – often determined by major landowners the Whitgift Foundation and their agents, HSW – maybe that’s not sustainable when the likes of Lidl and Surrey Street offer the same products for a fraction of the price.

      • It’s almost inevitable M &S will leave the Whitgift Centre as the ground floor and top floor have no customers or just frugal old ppl. Ruskin Square 2 is nearly complete, and the Boxpark lease expires in less than 2 years making way for Ruskin Square 3. Once Boxpark leaves , East Croydon is just gonna be a Canary Wharf wannabe full of homeless beggars. Also, having a Secret Cinema with tickets prices as far as £80 is a just a gimmick and will not last more than a year in Croydon. we all know this

        We either :
        – … leave Croydon
        – …bitch about it about where nothing gets done whilst we enrich council employees at the same time
        – ….just don’t pay our council taxes. Simple.

        Croydon Town Centre is in its death spiral, Simple

        • Lawrence Williams says:

          The not paying if council taxes is an idea. En masse.
          There is a huge problem of lacking accountability with the council. If you ever call them, you wait for 20+ minutes. Then someone answers “ohhhh, I don’t know. Erm, I don’t know.” Then they drop you in a queue waiting for 20 minutes. Next person “I don’t know. Ohhhh, I don’t know.” They tell you to email the mayor.

          It’s surprising that those fancy flats Near East Croydon don’t have footfall to make Waitrose ‘work’. However, the STOCK there is ‘meh’. I use Ocado because Waitrose lacks the organic/nice products they don’t have the sense to stock. Waitrose DO sell some of the lines I want, in their other branches, or did.

          I reckon the same people who would/can use Waitrose are using Ocado.

    • miapawz says:

      I miss the bustle of Croydon – i moved here in 2007 with promised regeneration in mind. It was overdue as the old town centre has no focal point and lacked any nice place to go and sit. But it never came and I moved to the Purley area for more green space. Now the green spaces are being buldozed for 9 flat developments (the new developer hit is demolish one bungalow and squeeze in 4 yes 4 town houses). I now have to travel to shop as there is nothing in our but of Purley/Kenley apart from take outs and one tiny coop…. Southern have removed the Victoria service so I have to change twice to go into London and the bus does not go up any near us… so I have an old car. Cars are not criminal acts, as some commenters seem to feel, they are essential transport; and we need our car for kids, parents, pets and getting to and fro. And now I’ll have to drive to waitrose and Lidl rather than get public transport.

  18. Giovanni Cefaliello says:

    You have to start somewhere, here is a petition to start things off
    Feel free to sign and share

    https://chng.it/YMHnFVtmfH

  19. Martin Rosen says:

    We went to see the La Boheme concert (NOT a fully staged opera!) at Fairfield Halls last night. When we came out at 6.30 pm all FIVE of the coffee shops that we tried nearby were CLOSED and the town centre was pretty much dead … apart from Nando’s in George Street and Box Park (whose noise level reminded me of Gatwick Airport on a busy day!)

    We walked past FIVE blocks of flats under construction or refurbishment, totalling maybe 3,000 units, plus FOUR office blocks being converted to flats which are now devoid of any office workers and representing maybe a further 1,500 units. The flats will never be sold at their ‘current’ prices of £300K+, and will remain empty for many months before becoming derelict. The Croydon experiment of the past 60 years is surely doomed, and Croydon will revert to the attractive and somewhat sleepy town of the 1950s …

    The death of Waitrose is just another step in that direction, and I believe an irresistible step. I well recall my suggestion to Gavin Barwell, when he was just a town councillor, that “progress” was a dirty word for Croydon and that the Council should be downsizing, not planning for further development. His final comment to me was that “we would have to agree to disagree”, and I hope that those words now stick in his throat.

    It would be interesting to know how many “office and shop workers” there once were in Croydon 10 years ago, and how many will be left 10 years from now.

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