The store and car park were immaculate and although our shopper was not a regular Waitrose customer she had no problems finding her way around. Members of staff escorted her to the items and plenty of tills were open. The checkout assistant was chatty and offered to pack.
Sainsbury's Farlington branch also provided a full basket. The aisles were clear and plenty of tills were open. There were signs in the fresh produce aisle explaining that a shortage of tomatoes was the result of the weather in Spain. The heckout assistant was polite but made our shopper feel guilty for not using his own bags.
Morrisons in Berwick-upon-Tweed boasted strong availability too. An assistant did not initially know where the green pesto was, but found out and returned with it a few minutes later. The checkout assistant was chatty, but did not offer to pack. Although availability was strong at Asda in Trafford Park, our shopper was charged for the wrong type of pears. However, the staff were helpful and the checkout assistant was very friendly.
One out-of-stock item let Tesco in North Shields down. An assistant was training new staff, but was still eager to help our shopper.
Winner: John Taylor, store manager, Waitrose, Comely Bank, Edinburgh
Our shopper was particularly impressed with your staff. How do you motivate them? Communication is key. We keep our partners involved with our decisions, results and strategies to inspire them. Our agm is coming up next month and we also have a strong social life outside work. We regularly hold events such as football matches and nights out, which help the staff get along.
Waitrose is the best-suited retailer to the area according to CACI. How do you compete against rivals? We compete well. Competition is certainly heating up here because the nearby Sainsbury's is already twice the size of our store and is looking to extend it by a further 15,000 sq ft next summer, while the nearby M&S Simply Food has been given a refit. But we differentiate on customer service and have increased our promotional activity.
Now the weather is improving, are shopping habits changing? Customers are really taking to our seasonal produce, such as berries and English strawberries. We are currently holding a Mediterranean wine fair so have some great offers on certain bottles, which are going down well. A particularly surprising seller was when we had egg poachers on a cut-price promotion as our gadget of the week. They flew off the shelves.
And what about the Essential Waitrose range? The range is still very much in the early stages, but has been positively received so far. Our fresh meat lines are particularly strong sellers. More lines will be rolled out later this year.
Tell me about the local issues that affect the store. The store has a curfew that meets the local council’s restriction – we cannot take any deliveries between 8pm and 8am, which can be challenging with regard to maintaining the availability of fresh produce as we open at 8.30am. The staff cope really well, though, and we battle to get the stock out ready for our customers in the mornings.
Do you have any plans to expand? No, because there is no scope to here. We are looking to open more stores in Scotland, though. There are plans for a new store in Glasgow this year, but nothing has been finalised yet.