Sainsbury's Cwmbran branch in South Wales is smaller, older and less-suited to the working class town than the Asda across the road, but it is this week's Top Store thanks to getting the basics right. Our shopper was delighted by the warm and welcoming atmosphere at the 20,000 sq ft store, and although it didn't sport the modern looks of the 110, 000 sq ft Asda, it was clean, tidy and well laid out. Importantly, it also had the best availability this week, an area in which Sainsbury's has struggled of late. However, the store does face some challenges. As The Grocer 33 regularly testifies, Asda's prices are usually cheaper than Sainsbury's and CACI data reflects this by listing the top store as only the fourth best-suited to Cwmbran. But since the Asda opened five years ago, the branch has not idly stood by and the experienced Sainsbury's staff are well-drilled in how to make the best of what they've got. "This may not be the most affluent area and hardly a typical Sainsbury's town, but our prices have significantly dropped over the past six months to compete with those of Asda," said acting store manager Mike Hughes. "Colleagues have been supplied with price comparison data so they know how close our prices are to our rivals'. "They repeat this to our customers and - because this is a close-knit town - the message has spread quickly."

Q&A with Mike Hughes Acting store manager of the week


Given the store is not the best suited to the area, how are you getting people through the door? The rebranding of the Taste the Difference products has really gone down well with local shoppers. It's a new-look product at a value price. Jamie Oliver's Feed Your Family For A Fiver campaign has also been a success but the biggest factor has been the price comparison information. A lot of people, colleagues and shoppers alike, did not realise just how close Sainsbury's prices were to Asda's. But isn't Asda's store a more attractive store to shop in? No, I don't think so. Many people are daunted by its sheer size and it has had a refit recently that shoppers have had to deal with. Also, many of our colleagues have worked at this store for 10 to 20 years. Customers respond well to this familiarity and colleagues' knowledge and experience of products and people are invaluable. Have shoppers moaned about rising food prices? Not at all. Prices have certainly gone up but it is not affecting people to the extent the media is suggesting - even in a town like this. Some of the headlines have definitely been over the top. How are the bogofs being received? The bogofs are going OK but we are more focused on half-price offers at the moment. They are more popular than bogofs as shoppers save money without accumulating extra groceries that they don't really want. Half-price offers are more popular in less affluent areas. Have you got an online service? We are in the early planning stages for a web delivery facility, but it would be a good idea. The big Tesco in nearby Pontypool has no Sainsbury's to contend with. If we could deliver out there, we might gain their customers. What is it like being an English boss in a Welsh supermarket? It is certainly tough! Especially when it's Wales versus England, a fixture that has - recently - left them


Asda Spondon, Derbyshire

1 - There was a tired appearance to this Asda, with some areas looking outdated. However, the store was clean and there was a good variety of promotions, especially in the Polish range. Customer service was mixed. While some staff guided our shopper to the location of items, others were vague and uncommunicative. When our shopper could not find the tomato purée, she was told to buy a branded version instead. The checkouts were cramped and queues were long. We visited on 30 May at 12.10pm. Our shop lasted 58 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 10 minutes.


Morrisons Auchinlea, Glasgow

1 - The presentation of this store was fantastic. The shelves were well stocked, although the Quorn was sold out. Promotional displays were located in prominent positions and the meat and fish counters were attractively merchandised. Customer service was also good and floor staff showed real commitment to helping our shopper. However, the checkout operator was glum and could have been more friendly. Eight of the 28 tills were open, which was fine. We visited on 30 May at 10.25am. Our shop lasted one hour and 11 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was six minutes.


Sainsbury's Cwmbran, South Wales

0 - Although the Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice was not stocked, this busy Sainsbury's provided an excellent shopping experience. All of the staff our shopper encountered, from the floor assistants to the checkout operator, were cheerful and enthusiastic. Various staff accompanied her to the location of items and she spotted a wide range of promotional offers. The checkout assistant offered to help pack our shopper's bags, and 13 of the 22 tills were open. We visited on 30 May at 9.33am. Our shop lasted one hour and two minutes. Time spent at the checkout was seven minutes.


Tesco Diss, Norfolk

3 - Aside from a few dirty patches around the vegetables section, the floor of this Tesco was very clean. Staff were helpful in answering queries on the location of products and the store was easy to navigate. Availability could have been better though as the grapefruit, Birds Eye Garden Peas and Hovis loaf were all out of stock. At the checkout, the operator was very efficient and cheerful and bags for life were readily available. We visited on 30 May at 7.00pm. Our shop lasted one hour and 40 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was five minutes.


Waitrose Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

1 - The bread section at this brightly lit Waitrose was depleted and four other products were not stocked in the required size. Customer service was good though, and the store was very easy to navigate - mainly because it was quite small. The aisles were shiny and clean and there were no shelf stackers or packing trolleys obstructing the aisles. Eight of the 10 tills were operating, which was sufficient as there was no more than one person in each queue. We visited on 30 May at 10.35am. Our shop lasted one hour. Time spent at the checkout was seven minutes.