Both boasted strong availability this week, but Morrisons' High Wycombe store pipped Sainsbury's in Melksham to the post thanks to its helpful staff.
The store was very busy, but this did not deter staff from escorting our shopper to items she couldn't find. She was particularly impressed with a polite assistant on the hot food counter, who apologised for a short queue. The helpful checkout assistant offered to pack and did not rush our shopper.
Sainsbury's in Melksham was let down by unfriendly staff, who gave unhelpful and basic responses around the store and at the checkout. However, plenty of tills were open and packing trolleys did not obstruct the aisles.
If it hadn't been for one out-of-stock item, Asda in Parkhead, which was very busy, would have been vying for the top spot. The store was clean, staff were helpful, the checkout assistant offered to pack and all the tills were open.
Tesco's Pontefract branch also had one out-of-stock item. The aisles were cluttered with stacking trolleys and empty boxes got in the way of the fruit and veg, however.
Although Waitrose in Kenilworth was let down by availability, its polite staff made this shop a pleasant one. An assistant escorted our shopper to the smoothie aisle and there was also an in-store pancake demonstration. Another plus was that plenty of tills were open.
Winner: Kemal Ghouse, store manager, Morrisons, High Wycombe
How is the Value range faring? The Value range is our biggest seller. The products taste a lot better than many customers expect. And some non-food items such as toilet rolls are proving very popular. However, a lot of customers are buying our Best range, too, because more people are staying in than before. One of our best new products is the Food Fusions range, launched last year, which includes fancy dining ingredients such as herbs, spices and cooking oils.
How do you compete with your local Sainsbury's? Sainsbury's is currently being redeveloped and is operating as a temporary store. It is set to reopen as a 65,000 sq ft site soon next door to us. I think we already compete well and will continue to do so - we have a great fresh food offer and provide an easy top-up shop, which is what customers particularly want when commuting or on school runs.
What strategies have you implemented for your store? I have developed a training matrix for each department, where staff can track their and their colleagues' training progress. We normally keep the records in head office but I duplicated the copy and put it on display so all staff have access to it. It gives them a competitive edge and really encourages them to do well and speed up their training.
What are your everyday management challenges? Motivation and customer service. Since I became store manager here seven months ago I have promoted 12 staff members to supervisors and managers. Many are fairly inexperienced in their new roles so coaching and guidance are key. I come from a hotel background so I treat every customer as a guest by being friendly, making conversation and remembering their names. I've always seen the store from a customer perspective, ensuring a high level of service, strong availability and no queues.
What would you change about your store? I would love to expand - we have some plans in the pipeline but nothing has been finalised yet. I would particularly like to expand our non-food offer, which accounts for five per cent of stock.