Behind the scenes of Horsham’s new John Lewis and Waitrose stores

Nigel Davis and Jo Thomas outside the John Lewis store
Nigel Davis and Jo Thomas outside the John Lewis store

With just four weeks to go until the grand opening of one of Horsham’s biggest retail developments the County Times has been allowed a sneak peak of the brand new store.

Reporter James Oxenham popped on his steel toe capped shoes and went for a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the new building which will house both the John Lewis at Home and Waitrose stores.

Excitement was definitely in the air this morning as I popped on my high vis jacket and pulled on my protective hat ready for a hard days snooping.

Walking past the many diggers and machines which continue to work on the new building it is hard to believe the store will be ready in just a few weeks, but that is the magic of development I suppose.

I’m escorted inside and as the light shines through the many layers of double glazed glass shielding the front entrance it is quite overwhelming to see the scale of just what has gone on at the site in the last few months.

Although not quite complete the inside is already starting to take shape with lots of board and walls already up and painted ready to separate the different areas in the store.

In the Waitrose section shelves have already been put in and some checkouts have also been installed, although I am informed it will probably be a few weeks before the store decides to bring in any food.

There was also a buzz of excitement about the new facilities the store would be offering as we were shown around the new cafe, wine bar, juice bar and a bakery areas. Sadly no tasters were available.

Jo Thomas, branch manger at Waitrose in Horsham, said she almost cried when she saw the new cafe and said she couldn’t wait to get started.

She said: “I am really excited. I never thought I would be so excited to see a fruit and veg shelf.

“The first time I saw the cafe I had a few tears in my eyes, I felt a little bit emotional.

“The partners are very excited as well as they feel they are really playing a part in the future.

“I don’t think it is daunting at all. More than anything I just want to get in and get on with it.”

The John Lewis section is just as impressive.

Both the upstairs and downstairs will play host to around 16,000 different products including furniture, homeware, technology and nursery departments all set to be moved in within the next few weeks.

As I am shown around the upstairs where the ‘at home’ section will be I am informed about the new Home hub which is set to be the first of its kind.

The section will be split into different rooms with special partners on hand to offer information and advise on what people should buy whether that is furniture for the home, homeware products or any other ‘at home’ items.

Nigel Davis, branch manger at John Lewis at Home Horsham said he was excited about John Lewis’ move to Horsham and especially the merge with Waitrose, as he informed me the new store is only the second in the company to incorporate both.

He said: “I just think it is amazing. I have been part of this project for a very long time. It feels like my baby really.

“I have really enjoyed learning about Waitrose and more about how it works. We are really excited to be working together.”

He added he wanted the store to be a community hub where customers could come down and browse items before popping over to the cafe or wine bar to discuss their potential purchases.

The store is set to open its doors in the town at 9am on Thursday June 18 and although it feels like there is a lot of work still to do I am reliably informed it will all be completed on time, so there is no need to worry.

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