Good Friday is going to be Farewell Friday tomorrow for Andy Davies, the ebullient manager of Marlborough’s Waitrose, who has announced his departure from the store that is the vital magnet of the High Street shopping centre.
After five-years in that role, Andy is heading for London to head a project management team of up to 20 John Lewis/Waitrose partners and consultants for the next 12 months.
“And I won’t be returning to Marlborough,” said 47-year-old Andy, who joined Waitrose as a weekend schoolboy helper. “It is a great opportunity for me and I am going to grab it. This is a really exciting chance for me to move into the corporate world.
“I fought really hard to get to Marlborough in the first place. I had a two-year plan and had to jump through many hoops to be given a brilliant branch like this and I’ve been only the fourth manager here in the store’s 36 years.”
His dramatic decision to leave has not come as a total surprise to his staff of 230 as he spent a six-month secondment to London last year. But he leaves in his considerable wake a dynamic record of success and community support.
Two years ago he was in control of a £3.5 million revamp of the supermarket that introduced a “green” refrigeration system and a new café. Since then, his activities have included creating an orchard of 20 rare-breed apple trees in the Waitrose car park and launching a Waitrose kitchen at St John’s Academy, providing initial jobs too for students and and mentoring them in writing job CVs.
“And we have been in the heart of the community for the last three years by giving £12,000 each year to 36 local charities,” he said. “That’s a big impact on the community and one I am proud of.
“It’s been a privilege to work here and I shall be sad in some ways to leave. I’ve got just a 20-minute drive to work every day with a fantastic team in one of the most wonderful parts of the country.
“You could say, ‘Just stay, that’s the easiest thing to do.’ But I’ve got this constant need to look for new horizons and to keep moving forward. That’s the way I’ve always been. So I can’t give up this great opportunity to learn new skills.
“I certainly shall come back to Marlborough to shop – and to drink the first glass of cider from our apple orchard. I love running branches. I love the whole buzz of our team, customers and working in the community.
“That’s why I’ve done it for so long. Now I have the opportunity to go out and do something different.”
Already in the pipeline for Marlborough are plans to revamp the High Street entrance to the branch and perhaps introduce a community notice board.
Interviews are now taking place over the next few weeks to find a successor, someone, possibly a woman, who already manages a Waitrose branch since Marlborough is considered one of company’s major rural stores.
“We expect to have someone in place by the end of April,” said Andy.
Meanwhile, it is likely that Marlborough Chamber of Commerce will be inviting Andy to return for an event to pay tribute to his work in the town.
“We are losing an ambassador to business in Marlborough with Andy’s decision to move on,” said Paul Shimell, president of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce.
“He will be a great loss to the town and to the Chamber of Commerce as a man who brought great ideas and resources to our committee, giving us essential information as to how he worked to keep his store in front.
“Waitrose is the main attraction in the town centre and the work that Andy has put in has kept it just so. He will be an asset to the next project he runs. We wish him well in the future.”