Sainsbury’s in Stroud was this week’s clear winner. It offered the best availability as the only supermarket to offer a full basket. But what really impressed was the customer service: the assistant knew exactly where to fi nd the product our shopper was looking for and led her to it straight away. There was also no queue. 

Asda in Sinfi n, Derby, had the longest queue on a Friday night our shopper had to wait for nearly 10 minutes. The assistant stacking the yoghurt shelf said that she did not know where the peaches and cream Activia yoghurt was, so our shopper had to find it himself. However, when he eventually reached the till the assistant was friendly and offered to help him pack his shopping. 

Morrisons in Northampton failed to hit the mark on staff and store presentation. Some male staff were wandering around with their shirts hanging outside their trousers, while trolleys had been left in the aisles by the assistants replenishing the shelves. The staff were helpful and friendly, however, and took our shopper to the items she required. 

Tesco in Highwoods, Essex, was quiet and there was no queue at the till. The checkout assistant was also quick and effi cient, although she did not ask our shopper if she wanted any help with her packing. The store was let down by the shop fl oor assistance. Our shopper felt that she was interrupting two members of staff mid-gossip when she asked where the chocolate eclairs were. 

Waitrose in Havant, Hampshire, was marred by poor availability. There were a lot of visible gaps in the fresh fruit and vegetable section and the rocket salad was out of stock. The damp underground car park was diffi cult to find and created a poor first impression of the store, but once inside it was clean and bright. Service was good overall, although one assistant looked confused and said he had never heard of Ragu when asked where it was.

Store of the week - Sainsbury's Stroud

How long have you worked for Sainsbury’s? I’ve been at this branch for a year and a half. I was previously a lead dotcom manager at Tesco. 

How do you remember your time at Tesco? I’ve got fond memories of Tesco but in terms of work ethics I’m with Sainsbury’s every time. I think we live our company’s values a lot more than employees at Tesco do. There’s a lot more meaning behind them and they fit with my own personal values. Fairtrade is one of them and so is the way we invest in developing our colleagues. 

What’s new in store? The newest thing in store is the Taste the Difference relaunch. It’s going really well – I think the company’s done a great job both with its advertising and PoS material. I’ve also had some positive comments from customers about it. Sales are up compared with the week prior to the relaunch. 

Who’s buying it? Naturally when promotions are on you get people trading up from standard own label but it’s aimed at competing with the branded market and we’re definitely taking from that. 

Do you think the national coverage given to Halloween sales was hyped up? I wouldn’t say we’d given it any additional space compared with last year but I imagine that’s to do with the size of our store. 

Demographic data for your area from CACI shows a high level of wealthy achievers. How do you cater for this? All our product ranging is based on the local dynamics. We’ve got a larger number of Taste the Difference products than a standard store would have in a different area. We don’t have fewer Basics lines, so it’s probably the standard own label we have less of. 

Why do you think Sainsbury’s is outperforming the market in terms of growth? It’s probably a lot to do with the current economic climate, as we’ve taken a lot of customers from M&S. It’s also the offers that we provide coupled with good service. Switch and Save has been the most effective way of combating the loss of the customers who would be trading down to other supermarkets. 

What incentives are there to provide good customer service? We assess ourselves twice monthly with a mystery shopper. All colleagues received an annual bonus based on the store’s mystery shopper targets. 

What’s the hardest part of your job? It’s probably the volume of work rather than a particular task. It comes down to personal planning, fast personal performance and getting support from the team. 

Mark O’Neill, deputy store manager of Sainsbury’s Stroud, was talking to Elinor Zuke