Row over Waitrose's free drinks hots up - Nailsea cafe boss quits trade group
A CAFE owner in Nailsea has resigned from her post as president of the town's Chamber of Trade and Commerce amid a row about a supermarket handing out free hot drinks.
Gilly Chu, president of the Chamber and owner of Gilly's Cafe in the High Street, hit out at Waitrose after it launched a promotion giving away free hot drinks to shoppers.
People using the town's Waitrose store who sign up for the retailers myWaitrose loyalty card are being offered free hot drinks in the store's cafe.
Mrs Chu said the move by the supermarket to hand out free drinks, without customers having to make a purchase, was crippling trade and had seen her morning coffee trade plummet by more than 50 per cent.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
But she said despite raising concerns with Waitrose, the chamber and Nailsea Town Council, and asking for the offer to be withdrawn it has remained in place.
Mrs Chu, who was chairman of the chamber for three years, tendered her resignation this week.
Mrs Chu, who has run her cafe for the last ten years, said: "It is totally incompatible with my business morals and principles to share a platform with a national retailer, Waitrose, who sees independent High Street retailers as collateral damage.
"Its response to our grievance has been shallow and pathetic and 50 per cent of their A-board advertising concentrates on their free coffee offer.
"The excuse by Nailsea Town Council, who are 'sympathetic' to our 'grievance' of not getting involved in local promotions is just head in the sand. The Waitrose offer is not a promotion and whichever way you look at it, this is a free-to-anyone offer. Loyalty schemes reward purchases.
"This is a national retailer working the numbers game and it has no interest in Nailsea High Street or any high street.
"My decision not to renew our subscription has not been taken lightly but with a heavy heart as I do care about my community. Trade and Commerce can only survive when a price is paid for goods.
"An indefinite free offer on local traders goods is grossly irresponsible and puts local jobs at risk."
Waitrose opened in Nailsea in September 2010 in the former Somerfield store and has already has a loyal following of customers.
The free coffee and tea offer is being run at stores across the country.
Nailsea Chamber of Trade and Commerce chairman, Janet Hendey, said the organisation was not able to influence decisions made by Waitrose at a national level.
Mrs Hendey said: "This offer is something that has been implemented at a national level, not a local one. It is not something which the chamber has the power or authority to change or get involved with.
"However the impact on local coffee shops has been significant.
"I am very sad that Gilly has resigned as her contribution to the chamber over the years has been significant and highly valued.
"However I do understand her point and the effect this offer has had on local businesses and why she has chosen to resign."
Waitrose said that it always aimed to complement small businesses in the communities in which it trades and would never set out to compete with an independent business.
It added the myWaitrose card was designed as a way of rewarding loyal Waitrose customers as they shopped and the firm was always mindful of the need to trade responsibly wherever it operated.