The service at Waitrose in Kingston was similarly excellent. Queues were short at the checkout, staff were cheerful – and our customer said she never wanted to shop elsewhere again. However, availability let the store down.
Princes Risborough’s Tesco had a good atmosphere, thanks to a logical layout and good signage. Smartly-dressed staff were happy to help our customer, but the store did not provide a full basket.
Sainsbury’s in Haywards Heath was well-signed, but gaps on the shelf spoiled the store’s otherwise pleasant appearance. Staff were polite but did not guide our shopper to the items. The chaotic car park also marred the shopping experience, although a discount petrol voucher sweetened the pill.
Asda’s performance was uncharacteristically poor. At its Coventry store, four of the 33 items were out of stock. Gaps across the store made it look untidy, while a discarded pallet presented a hazard to unwary shoppers. However, there were plenty of deals and Smart Price items and staff were friendly.
Winner: Robert Davidson, store manager, Morrisons, Inverurie
How do you manage availability? Unlike our competitors, we still use a manual ordering system. That means the responsibility falls on our people and because they’re well-trained our availability is strong. Manual ordering gives more flexibility, allowing us to put in an order every day.
What’s your store’s biggest strength? What we call Market Street – our produce, deli and bakery sections. You can buy a can of beans anywhere, but we focus on fresh. We’ve got more products, a better range and higher quality on our fresh lines.
What’s your biggest management headache? We’re quite a small store, so the trade-off for us is between variety and availability. We could stock a huge range of products with a single facing, but we’d never keep them stocked. It’s about finding a happy balance.
Who’s your biggest local competitor? There’s a Tesco store less than a mile down the road, which had a refit last year and added a mezzanine level, which affected trade somewhat. But largely I believe Tesco and Morrisons attract different customers. They have a much larger non-food range than us, since we’re a small store, but we really focus on fresh and availability.
What new technology have you got in store? We’ve got a new system called Intelligent Queue Management, which should make a big difference at checkouts. Sensors track the number of customers coming into the store, and warn supervisors how many checkouts will need to be open in about half an hour’s time, allowing us to pre-empt queues.
What do you do for your local community? The latest thing is our ‘Let’s Grow’ campaign, to encourage local schools to grow fruit and vegetables and get kids eating healthily. It’s been a slow start, but we’re definitely starting to see interest from our customers.
Why was your store last in the local paper? A staff member who had been with us since the store opened in 1994 retired a few months ago and we held a big lunch buffet as a leaving party, which the local paper came to. I won’t give her name, as she still shops here and would probably strangle me if I did.