Although Tesco in Bicester had strong availability, shelf-stacking trolleys cluttered the aisles and there was litter outside the store. Plenty of tills were open, however, and staff were willing to help.
Sainsbury's in Brentwood provided a full basket but too many abandoned trolleys cluttered the aisles and not enough tills were open, which prompted complaints from other customers. However, the checkout assistant was polite and several assistants escorted our shopper to items she couldn’t find.
One out-of-stock item let down Asda in Cramlington, which was bustling with shoppers. However its “friendly” staff coped well and were busy replenishing the shelves. There were also plenty of tills open. However, the car park was quite full as it is shared with a shopping mall, which made parking difficult.
Morrisons in Swansea had the worst availability but the store was tidy and boasted well-stocked fish and deli counters. Although the checkout assistant did not offer to pack, she was polite and greeted our shopper.
Winner: Steve Long, store manager, Waitrose, Cheadle Hulme
What products are selling particularly well at the moment? There has been lots of interest on our fresh counter in less well-known cuts of meat, such as pork belly. We started selling cheaper cuts over the meat counter quite recently and customers have taken to it really well. Waitrose's new Essential range has 1,400 lines and is being gradually rolled out in the store. We have just started selling the first batch, which included meat and poultry. The packaging really attracts customers' attention and shoppers are recognising the good value of the range.
Tell us about your non-food offer. We recently stopped selling CDs and DVDs because they didn't fit in with the food expertise and brand offer we provide. We replaced the home entertainment range with a small extension to our home cooking product range, which is doing extremely well, with sales up 15% in my store.
When did you get an online service? In July last year. We currently have one van and customer demand is expanding, so it is possible we will get more transport to meet demand later this year. Waitrose is improving and expanding its online service throughout the country and it is growing at a very fast rate.
What are your everyday management challenges? To make the most of the opportunities this current economic climate brings. It is important to keep customer service levels, availability and staff morale as high as possible. Keeping staff up to date with changes in direction and making sure staff understand the reasons behind what we do to helps them perform better. Our year-on-year store figures prove this as sales are up 8% and our customer base has increased by 13%.
How do you compete against other supermarkets in your area? We have already won more customers from other supermarkets recently and it is our challenge to win even more. I believe our availability, customer service and presentation are stronger than at other supermarkets.
What would you change about your store? I would love a café and plans are currently being made for one as we feel there is a good opportunity.