Shoppers have been checking out Banbury's newest supermarket after the MP cut the ribbon to officially open Waitrose this morning (Thursday, January 25).
North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis joined branch manager Daniel Morehead and representatives from three charitable causes to welcome the store’s first customers at 7am.
Many were impressed by the bright and open layout, with staff, known as partners, offering tasters and help while some took a break in the adjoining cafe.
John Bishop, from Banbury, said: "So far so good, we have been waiting for Waitrose to open in Banbury for a while and I like the free coffee.
"We usually go to Daventry as my daughter lives there so for us it's much easier having one around the corner - it's excellent."
Nicola Belleguelle was enjoying strolling through the aisles with her young child in the trolley.
She said she usually shops in the Waitrose in Stratford-on-Avon as she lives in Shipston-on-Stour but said Banbury's new branch had a greater variety.
"It's quite open plan which is good and the cafe is nice and big, much bigger than the Stratford one, which makes it easier when you've got a little one," she said.
The shop has created more than 120 new jobs, with many employees living locally in Banbury.
Employees have become Partners in the John Lewis Partnership, entitling them to benefits including learning and leisure subsidies, shopping discounts and a share in the company’s annual profits in the form of an annual bonus.
The MP was joined by representative from Banbury Young Homelessness Project, Home-Start Banbury & Chipping Norton, and The Hill youth and community centre, all of whom will benefit from Waitrose's Community Matters ‘green token’ scheme.
Mrs Prentis said: “I’m delighted to see another well known retailer choose Banbury as the location for its latest store.
"With over 120 employees and a room for community use, it is a brilliant addition to the town.
"I was really pleased I could be there bright and early at the official opening and to welcome the first customer."
Thousands of products will feature on Waitrose Banbury’s shelves, as well as those offered on its fresh service counters, including dedicated meat, fish and cheese counters, and a dry aged beef cabinet.
There is also a Mai Taiko sushi counter where customers can enjoy freshly made sushi throughout the day, as well as a bakery.
A new cafe offers space for shoppers to relax and an outdoor seating area is located by the cafe to enjoy when warmer temperatures arrive later in the year.
Services include Waitrose Quick Check, which gives customers the opportunity to conveniently scan as they shop, and the John Lewis ‘click and collect’ service to enable people to collect their online John Lewis orders at the store.
The supermarket also includes a community room which is free to book at firstname.lastname@example.org for charity events or regular community get-togethers subject to availability.
In addition, the retailer’s Community Matters ‘green token’ initiative will see Waitrose share £1,000 between three local charities or projects every month. Customers can nominate causes by picking up a leaflet in store.
Branch manager Mr Morehead said: “The anticipation around our arrival has been overwhelming and we’re very excited to welcome our first customers.
"We’re very much looking forward to being part of the local community and offering local residents with great food, drink and services.”