Changes in store

Sainsbury's Sunderland store manager Gary Pearson and team Leader Brenda Eltringham

Sainsbury's Sunderland store manager Gary Pearson and team Leader Brenda Eltringham

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JEFF Surtees has come full circle in his eight-year career with Sainsbury’s.

The 25-year-old graduate is based out of the supermarket giant’s London headquarters, but is back where it all began, at least temporarily.

Sunderland-born Jeff is the company’s investment delivery manager, in charge of making expansion and refurbishment plans a reality, and is home on Wearside to oversee the massive expansion of the Silksworth store. It is a venue he knows extremely well.

“I actually worked here as a student,” he said. “I’ve worked for Sainsbury’s for eight years now, and started off here while I was still at university.”

Jeff’s job takes him all over the country – he also oversaw the expansion of the store at Washington Galleries recently – and he is dividing his time between the Silksworth project and a replacement store site in Newcastle.

The work on Wearside has been under way for several weeks, but it is only recently that the results have begun to become apparent, with the steel skeleton of the new extension now clearly visible.

The new mezzanine level will create around 33,000 sqft of extra selling space, taking the overall floor space to 80,000 sqft and making the store Sainsbury’s biggest in the north of England.

Up to 85 new full and part-time jobs will be created and there will be about 69 extra parking spaces once the car park works are complete.

Steve Carter is retail leader on the project, responsible for liaising between Jeff and the construction operation on one side and store manager Gary Pearson and his team on the other.

Team leader Brenda Eltringham will be on-hand to answer customers’ queries as the work continues, and boards outside the store explain what the work will entail and highlight the improvements once the work is complete.

Changes have included temporarily closing the store cafe and moving the toilets outside, but Steve believes the impact on shoppers will be minimal, with most of the work taking place behind the scenes. “A lot of the work that is going on is actually ‘back-of-house’ and external, which customers will never see – you will see absolutely minimal changes inside the store until the extension is built,” he said.

“We are doing some work inside the store, but hopefully customers will not even notice.”

The work has involved demolishing the block of separate shop units to the left of the store entrance. The bridal shop and dry cleaners housed there have moved into temporary accommodation on the other side of the car par, while the optician has relocated to the city centre. Christian Wakelin, regional development surveyor for Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re delighted at the progress being made on the store improvement works so far.

“The extension will allow us to sell more products and improve the shopping experience for our loyal and new customers, as well as creating up to 85 much-needed jobs for the local area.

“We hope the work will be complete by late summer, and we look forward to welcoming our customers to their new and improved store.”

The Silksworth site is not Sainsbury’s only construction project on Wearside at the moment. The firm is also planning a new 60,000 sqft net store on the Jennings Ford site in Riverside Road, which would create up to 450 new jobs.

Regional development executive Paul Miller said: “When we held a public consultation about the proposals, 98 per cent of respondents told us they wanted to see the new store. With the extension at Silksworth now under way, I’m sure people in north Sunderland are keener than ever to see their area benefit from a new store.

“Our proposals represent a significant investment in Southwick, and up to 450 new jobs would be a huge boost to the local economy.”