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Gloucestershire Business News

Dobbies swaps Sainsbury's for new brand

A new Waitrose food hall has opened at Dobbies' Gloucester outlet.

The change is part of a national deal that sees Waitrose replace a contract with Sainsbury's, who pulled out of supply deals with the garden centre giant last summer.

With 75 centres nationwide, Dobbies, which was founded in Scotland in 1865 by James Dobbie, is now the UK's leading garden centre retailer, employing more than 4,000 people. From 2007 until 2016 the business was owned by Tesco, but was then bought for £217m by a group of investors led by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital.

In the wake of the post-Covid deal with Sainsbury's, the partnership with Waitrose paves the way for providing access to the premium supermarket's food, grocery products and everyday essentials in more than 50 Dobbies stores across the UK.

Dobbies' Cirencester outlet made the change last month, while the Harefield store, near Stonehouse, is one of the last, Sainsbury's having vacated the site last week.

Matthew Urbanowicz, general manager at Dobbies Gloucester, said: "The food hall at our store is already very popular and the team is really positive about Waitrose being part of the shopping experience for customers."

The centre's existing partners will continue to be part of the offering, including Lindt, Whittards, the Cook range and a fresh bakery to-go.

"Waitrose products will be an excellent addition. Customers will find a range of chilled, frozen and store cupboard essentials, as well as free-from and vegan ranges and a range of wines and spirits."

The Haresfield centre celebrated the opening by running a promotion with five randomly selected customers winning their food hall shopping for free. A limited number of £5 off every £25 spent vouchers are also made available in the food hall.

Dobbies says it will continue its existing partnerships with brands including Hotel Chocolat and Cook.

James Bailey, Executive Director, said: "Waitrose is committed to eliminating single-use plastics and all its own-brand packaging will be reusable, widely recyclable, or home-compostable by 2023. Dobbies is also actively working with suppliers to reduce single-use plastics and packaging, while offering a range of in-store recycling and reducing food waste in partnership with Too Good to Go."

Punchline says: Is Dobbie's move one to achieve a 'halo effect'? It may well be, but consumer perception of brand hierarchy is more fluid than it may have been pre-pandemic. Consumer watchdogs Which? have just researched public opinion on preferred supermarket brands. Looking at range of products, stock availability, quality of own-label produce, store appearance and checkout queuing time M&S emerges, among the 3,000 who were questioned, as the top choice. But while many might expect Waitrose to come second, that position was grabbed by Aldi. WIth Waitrose taking third spot, Iceland came fourth, followed by Lidl, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and, in tenth place, the Co-op.

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