The sign outside of Waitrose offers a "sad farewell" to residents of Bromley who have been shopping in the Sundridge Park store for over 40 years.
The store is closed in the fall because the supermarket says it has "found no way to make the store profitable in the long term".
The store becomes a branch of Lidl, the German discount supermarket chain that, along with Aldi, is aggressively expanding in the UK and shaking up the status quo.
Bridget Wright, who has been shopping there all her life, is amazed by the closure: "Oh my god. I can't believe it. My husband told me this morning that Waitrose closed stores, but I was sure our store would be safe because it is always busy and the staff is nice. "
The 64-year-old also loves the German chain, but she prefers Waitrose with its wine selection and first-class assortment. "They sell duck eggs that I think you can't get in Lidl."
A survey once claimed that the arrival of a branch of Waitrose in a neighborhood, with its more expensive products from the organic food brand Duchy and Heston Blumenthal, could add nearly £ 40,000 to the value of homes. But the retailer, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership, is now in retreat, selling or closing unprofitable stores, as it adapts to an intensely competitive supermarket market where low-priced rivals are on the rise.
There are clear indications that snobbing as to where people shop in the UK is a thing of the past because customers are looking for the best quality at the best prices. Aldi and Lidl are the fastest growing supermarket chains in the UK because some of their larger regular rivals question their business models.
Sainsbury & Asda – the second and three largest supermarkets in the UK – recently tried to merge together in an effort to strengthen their hand against the discounters, but the competition watchdog blocked the deal.
Although she has an emotional connection with the store, Kylie Day thinks Lidl is a better option for local people struggling to make a living on a low income.
She says the Waitrose store suffered from a "lack of customization", even though there is little competition in the area.
"I will be sorry to see it happen because I have memories of coming here with my nan … but I think Lidl will get more shoppers because of the prices," she says. "I think the older generation has gone ahead and there is no one to spend money: young people don't have it."
Aldi and Lidl are now larger than Waitrose, which is only the eighth largest chain in the UK with 344 stores. The two discounters gain one in seven pounds of groceries in the UK.
After the German chains began to develop during the last recession, they continued to transform the way Britain shops. Last Christmas – a time when the British traditionally use more exclusive stores such as Waitrose – two-thirds of UK households visited Aldi and Lidl and handed them the largest ever-existing amount of party expenses.
Waitrose says the decision to close seven supermarkets, with three – Bromley, Oadby in Leicestershire and Wollaton in Nottinghamshire – being sold to Lidl, is no sign that it is throwing in the towel. It is pumping cash into its online supermarket, while it is preparing for the end of long-term distribution with Ocado next year. It says it will compete with larger rivals by making its stores more exciting for shopping, with the addition of sushi counters and wine bars, rather than trying to get bigger.
Lidl, the smaller of the two German chains with 760 stores across the country, said last month that it would invest more than £ 500 million to open new stores in London. It is also building a new headquarters in Tolworth in south-west London to accommodate 800 employees.
While putting his Waitrose shopping bags on the trunk of his car, Peter Dowse has not heard that the name on the door is about to change, but says that his main reason for using the store has been convenience. "I'd prefer it if they keep it as a Waitrose, but I'll probably continue to shop here," he says, adding, "If it goes downmarket, I might think differently."
. (tagsToTranslate) Waitrose (t) Aldi (t) Lidl (t) Business (t) John Lewis (t) Supermarkets (t) Retail industry (t) UK news