Waitrose stores in the north remain a rare sight but its Sheffield branch, in winning this week's Top Store award, is a sign that Yorkshire's love affair with the upmarket retailer is blossoming. At 38,000 sq ft, the store is among the biggest in the Waitrose estate. Its pristine fixtures and fittings impressed our shopper, as did the excellent customer service on both the checkouts and the sales floor. It had the best availability and would have provided the only full basket had it stocked the required size of gammon. But the outskirts of Sheffield is hardly ideal Waitrose territory, as CACI data attests. A typical Waitrose store has just 5% of local residents classed as hard-pressed. Sheffield has 29%. The city's wealthy achievers - who account for 13% of the store's shoppers compared with 42% at an average Waitrose - have driven the store's growth, according to store manager Ian Fraser. "The store was converted into a Waitrose from a Safeway four years ago and business has steadily improved as residents from nearby villages and the affluent Eccleshall area of Sheffield have rewarded us with their loyalty," said Fraser. "Waitrose branches are still few and far between in northern England, but the demand for the Waitrose offering is evidently there. We have gained a strong foothold in Yorkshire, as proved by the Top Store award in Otley three weeks ago and our own success."


Q&A with Ian Fraser Store manager of the week

What is your local competition like? Our store is surrounded by bigger competitors. To the south we have very large Sainsbury's and Tesco stores, while we also have established Asda and Morrisons outlets just a few miles away. A Sainsbury's Local recently opened between our store and nearby student accommodation, which hit us. But we are still relatively new to the area and have certainly been seeing people experimenting with a visit and then coming back for their weekly shop the following week. The average weekly spends have also been increasing. How are you gaining the edge over your competitors? We have recently gained a home delivery service, which is going very well. We are contending with more established delivery services from the nearby Tesco and Sainsbury's stores, but it would be illogical not to offer the service considering how well Waitrose has been received in this area. So Sheffield's love affair with Waitrose is blooming? I think we have arrived in Sheffield at a critical time. The city is undergoing a renaissance and there has been an incredible amount of investment and regeneration to restore its beauty and heritage. I believe Waitrose, and its premium offering, is part of the renaissance. It's great to be involved with the city at such a vibrant, significant time. What effect did the 20% bonus have on partners' morale? It was a fantastic gesture. A lot of our partners have been with us for a relatively short period of time, so the bonuses were a valuable demonstration of how they can be rewarded for their hard work. It was a huge fillip, which generated a strong team spirit. What would you like to change about your store? I would make it easier for drivers to gain access to our store. We are located on a ring road and you have to cut across two busy main roads to enter the car park. It's hard work to get here, so we have to make their trip worthwhile.



 Asda Cardiff Bay

1 - Empty boxes lay abandoned in the aisles, but otherwise this store was generally well-merchandised with only a few gaps on shelves. Floor staff were knowledgeable about the location of products and one assistant personally guided our shopper to the McCain oven chips - or at least to the chiller where they had sold out. We visited on 14 March at 9.52am. Our shop lasted one hour. Time spent at the checkout was three minutes.

morrisons Castle Bromwich, West Midlands

2 - There were plenty of special offers at this store. The gammon joint and peanut butter were out of stock, but availability was fine overall with no obvious gaps on shelves. Staff were very helpful, but to shoppers' disappointment the National Lottery terminal was out of action and only 14 of the 24 tills were open. We visited on 14 March at 12.05pm. Our shop lasted one hour and 35 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 12 minutes.

sainsbury's Rustington, West Sussex

1 - The congested aisles at this busy Sainsbury's were made worse by a large group of online delivery pickers and their oversized trolleys. Despite this, the store was clean and tidy and the checkout operator was particularly friendly. The Kellogg's Corn Flakes were out of stock and though 16 of the 25 tills were open, there were still queues. We visited on 14 March at 2.20pm. Our shop lasted 40 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was six minutes.

somerfield Springburn, Glasgow

0 - This small Somerfield did not stock the mushrooms, broccoli, Wall's sausages or brie but the floor staff were pleasant and smart. The checkout operator was not overly polite, though, and the receipt showed our shopper was charged for parsnips, not courgettes. The aisles were clean and tidy. We visited on 14 March at 11am. Our shop lasted 45 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was three minutes.

tesco Bexhill-on-Sea

6 - Staff at this Tesco out were busy stocking shelves when our shopper made her early morning visit. However, there were big gaps on shelves and the rice, apple juice, Cathedral City, mushrooms, Hovis and croissants were out of stock. The staff were very polite, though, and did their best to help. We visited on 14 March at 8.05am. Our shop lasted one hour. Time spent at the checkout was two minutes.

waitrose Sheffield

0 - Staff were replensishing stock when our shopper visited but they kept out of her way and were very polite and helpful. Aisles were wide and availability was strong, though the required size of gammon was not stocked. Nine of the 18 tills were open, which was sufficient. We visited on 14 March at 1.42pm. Our shop lasted 47 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was four minutes and 30 seconds.