Yes, it’s not just any store opening, it’s an M&S Foodhall opening. Sorry.
No doubt some West Hampstead residents (especially those living south of the railway) are counting down the days until the shop opens on February 22nd at West Hampstead Square.
As part of its customer engagement, M&S and its contractors Wates offered a sneak preview of the new store to any interested parties.
Although the store was still in the final stages of construction, the equipment and fittings were already in place giving a good idea of what to expect. From what we could see it has a familiar M&S Foodhall look. No great surprise. The ceiling pipework and lighting is exposed, which fits in with the contemporary look of West Hampstead Square.
As you enter, to your left will be an in-store bakery next to a large flower and plant display. Straight ahead are metres and metres of chiller cabinets for all those M&S fresh food and ready meals. Yes, including Chicken Kiev. Down at the end is fruit and veg.
Turning to the right at the end, coming back along the parallel aisle is a large wine section with dry goods opposite.
Past the wine and dry goods is be a paper and card section but – two surprises at the checkout – only SCOTs. No M&S has not got some strange new employment policy, it stands for Self-Check Out Tills.
There is an M&S collection point for online purchases, with a couple of tills for the less technical among us. The other surprise was the absence of a coffee counter at the moment. Nor is there the promised hot-food take away unit. That would have required an on site toilet, which proved too complicated to arrange. Not too complicated, apparently, is customer WiFi.
Given West Hampstead’s very poor experience of supermarket delivery vehicles (yes, we’re looking at you Tesco), everyone took a keen interest in the back of the unit, and we were surprised to see quite a small warehouse space, which suggests deliveries will need to be frequent.
Then a quick tour downstairs to see the space for the 55 new staff (20 of whom have been recruited locally). They will be led by the store manager, Kate Thomas.
The store was due to open six months ago in August last year. Although those of us with long memories might recall that there was talk of M&S opening on this site twenty years ago. It’s been a long wait.