Floor staff at Waitrose Otley branch in West Yorkshire don't just stack shelves and price products. They also offer shoppers advice on recipes and ingredients, and the fact they are more than happy to go that extra step to help shoppers has been rewarded with this week's Top Store award. The 20,000 sq ft branch's winning credentials also combined strong availability with an eclectic range of grocery items and locally sourced produce. Unlike many of the other stores we visited, its aisles weren't congested and checkout staff worked quickly to cut queue times. Otley residents demanded quality, said store manager Mike Cooper, who was not surprised to learn that CACI data indicated Waitrose was the best-suited store to Otley. "The majority of our shoppers are affluent. They are enthusiastic and educated about food, and demand detailed product knowledge from our partners," he said. "Sales of our cookbooks have leapt 60% compared with the same period last year, which proves their love of food." Shoppers were always asking staff for advice on recipes and unusual ingredients, he added. "We have to keep up to date with food trends and organise our products and stocks accordingly," he said. "For instance, it was a challenge to sustain availability of organic chickens after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's TV show prompted a 30% sales growth in poultry."


Q&A with Mike Cooper Store manager of the week

Is Waitrose now firmly established in northern England? I think so. I have worked at this store for 13 years and oversaw the conversion of the store from Safeway to Waitrose four years ago. Waitrose suits people in this area because they demand top-quality fresh produce. Northerners appreciate how Waitrose focuses on locally sourced food and I have forged strong links with farmers through Yorkshire Forward - a government agency that promotes local enterprise. Is there a lot of competition? We are the only town-centre supermarket but there are two large Morrisons nearby and it is likely Sainbury's will open a branch in town. I'm not too concerned by this though as the extra competition will be good for us. Also, Sainsbury's is more mainstream now. It has gone down the price route and left the premium offering to us. Is there anything you would like to change about your store? I would like to make it bigger so we could offer more fresh foods. We had a senior Waitrose managers' conference last week and looked at how stores could make store even more appealing to customers. I would like a cooking area, like an in-store kitchen, where we would demonstrate how best to use our products to create various dishes. I intend to let Mark Price know about this idea. How do you motivate your staff to do a great job? I have learned that it is essential to be open and honest with colleagues and also make their job fun. This improves the working environment. Our store is like a big village shop. Although we are reliant on customers visiting us from the wider area, we know the locals by first name and they are an essential part of the store. Does your store get much coverage in the local media? We are on television all the time. For some reason, if local news teams or even television dramas want to feature a supermarket they come to us. It's always great to see our store on TV.



Asda Kingsthorpe, Northampton

0 - This aisles at this small Asda were congested with shelf stackers and packing cages. Availability was good and all 33 items were available, apart from the baguettes, which were not stocked. The shop was slightly outdated and gloomy, and got gloomier still during a five-minute powercut. We visited on 29 February at 1.20pm. Our shop lasted one hour. Time spent at the checkout was eight minutes.


morrisons Reddish, Greater Manchester

0 - Availability was excellent at this Morrisons, which provided a full basket. However, there was a lot of congestion in the aisles because so many staff were restocking shelves and shoppers struggled to get past the packing cages. There was a wide selection of promotions and 11 of the 20 checkouts were open. We visited on 29 February at 1.00pm. Our shop lasted one hour and 15 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was seven minutes.

sainsbury's Stirling

0 - This clean and tidy store was prepared for shoppers looking for Mother's Day gifts with a display of flowers at the entrance. Staff were polite and helped our shopper find a few items, and he spotted a range of Easter eggs on promotion. The required size of Wall's sausages were not stocked but availability was strong in general. We visited on 29 February at 10.00am. Our shop lasted 58 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was three minutes.

somerfield Haywards Heath, West Sussex

0 - The floor, fixtures and fittings at this small Somerfield were in top condition as it had only recently opened for business. The range of stock was limited because of its size and eight items were not stocked. Our shopper had to wait for the checkout pay terminal to be fixed and the operator was very slow. We visited on 29 February at 2.40pm. Our shop lasted 35 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 10 minutes.

tesco Portsmouth, Hampshire

3 - The bread section at this busy store was bare and shoppers struggled to move past the packing trolleys and staff who blocked the aisles. The checkout operator was quick and friendly, but queues were long as not all the checkouts were open. The Hovis loaf, baguette and Bounty kitchen roll were all sold out. We visited on 29 February at 6.00pm. Our shop lasted 40 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 14 minutes.

waitrose Otley, West Yorkshire

0 - Our Sainsbury's shopper was impressed to see the management team chatting and laughing with shoppers and helping the floor assistants with their work at this store. The shelves were gap-free but the Wall's sausages weren't stocked. All 16 checkouts were open. We visited on 29 February at 10.40am. Our shop lasted 49 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was four minutes.