Upmarket food store Waitrose is opening the doors of its first North-East site tomorrow after spending millions of pounds on refurbishment.

Waitrose, part of the John Lewis partnership, is launching its most northerly store in Durham's Millburngate Shopping Centre.

It acquired the 18,880sq ft site as part of a five-store deal from Morrisons in August.

Managing director Steve Esom said the group is always looking to buy new sites, particularly in the North, and is interested in getting a foothold in Newcastle.

"The move to the North-East only now hasn't been for the want of trying. It is difficult to find the right sites, but we are here in the region now and we would love to have a store in Newcastle in the future," he said.

Waitrose has safeguarded all 92 jobs at the former Safeways store and Mr Esom said new positions are likely to be created once the branch is established.

The supermarket has a reputation for selling high-quality food, stocking around 1,000 organic products, 50 types of fish and other seafood, plus more than 100 cheeses.

As part of the deal with Morrisons it also acquired stores in Wilmslow, in Cheshire, East Grinstead and Lewes, in Sussex, and St Katherine's Dock, in London, building on the purchase of 19 shops last year, and taking the total of Waitrose branches to 167.

Before toady its most northerly store was in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.