Who we visited

costcutter Finchley Road, London

LONDIS Harrogate, North Yorkshire

somerfield Stamford, Lincolnshire

spar Milton of Campsie, East Dunbartonshire

tesco express Aberdeen

How they performed

It was a messy scene at the Costcutter on north London's busy Finchley Road. The cramped conditions were exacerbated by boxes littering the floor and the fresh fruit and vegetable selection looked tired and unappetising. The only two staff members were both on the checkout, facing long queues of rush-hour shoppers, but they coped calmly under pressure and remained polite.

The Londis store on Skipton Road in Harrogate was clean and tidy but no special effort had been taken with the presentation. All the products were easily found and availability was good throughout the store. The checkout operator was pleasant and cheerfully packed our shopper's bags.

The decor at the Somerfield in the quaint Lincolnshire town of Stamford was far more appealing. Products were displayed with care and the fixtures, fittings and floor were gleaming and modern. Our shopper was able to locate all the products quickly and there were a variety of special offers, such as the two bottles of Coca-Cola for £2 and two eight-packs of bacon for £3. The staff combined great manners with speedy service.

The Spar in Milton of Campsie in East Dunbartonshire was a warm and welcoming shop with a wide selection of stock and attentive customer service. The staff were friendly and there were no gaps on shelves.

There was a long queue at the Tesco Express garage forecourt store on King Street in Aberdeen but staff were coping well and service was fast yet polite. The required Whiskas catfood variety was not stocked but alternatives were available and the shelves were well-stocked throughout the store.