The store looked brighter after its recent refurbishment, and a very friendly assistant told our shopper they did not stock mint pots but offered advice about planting fresh mint. While the checkout assistant did not offer to help pack, he did stop scanning to give her a chance to catch up.
Asda in Rotherham was extremely well staffed and without exception they were very helpful and friendly. Our shopper was impressed with the store's liveliness and in-store services including photo developing, an optician and café. However, the store was let down by poor availability with two items out-of-stock.
Morrisons in Coalville, Leicestershire, offered a full basket but not great service. The till assistant did not check the eggs for breakages and let the fruit and vegetables roll down the till. There was unsightly packing debris in the vegetable section.
The Dairy Milk was out-of-stock at Tesco Cumbernauld but the store was clean, bright and spacious with pleasant, helpful staff.
Waitrose in Milton Keynes was also let down by an out-of-stock item (the garlic). However, its service was exceptional with all four members of staff our shopper asked for help proving as friendly and helpful as each other.
Winner: Jason Hill, store manager, Sainsbury’s Portsmouth
What did last October's refurbishment change? The store still had the original decoration from 21 years ago, and the old J Sainsbury branding. A lot of the signs were taken to head office to archive. The store reopened with 12,000 sq ft of general merchandise and clothing. It had been purely food before and they looked at how they could do something different.
How have the new lines been received? Really well clothing and the massive Blu-ray/DVD collection are especially popular. We're getting a more affluent customer base in store now. It's typically the Waitrose customers you can see their green bags when they come into the shop! They're pulled in to do their food shop too because of the non-food side and bigger fresh range. We want to give them a destination where they can get everything. Once they're through the doors they can get all their shopping done under one roof.
How many food products did you have to drop for the new general merchandise area? We lost about 5,000 food lines. We knew there would be a bit of customer turmoil so I opened a suggestion book for lines taken out and held two listening groups. Through those groups I picked the lines that were being requested a lot and ranked them in order. I worked through Holborn to get just over 600 lines back in.
What's the most challenging part of your job? I was promoted to store manager 18 months ago. I think if it's your first store a lot of it is about communication and the way you engage with colleagues. In my canteen I've got one whole side called Pride of Portsmouth. Everything we do with charities, results we achieve and events outside the store like birthdays goes on the pride wall.
How long have you worked for Sainsbury's? Sixteen years. I started as a student when I worked late nights in produce replenishment and worked my way up. It's absolutely amazing managing my own store. Sainsbury's is a brand I want to be part of. I like the way we treat suppliers and the ethical code we follow. I feel we're now two steps ahead of the market.
Grocer 33: Half-price Häagen Dazs helps Morrisons (18 September 2010)