Every week, The Grocer 33 rates the supermarkets. So how did convenience stores cope with a scaled down version?

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The world of convenience has never been bigger or more competitive. So what happens when you send mystery shoppers into a convenience store on a mission? Or rather, three missions: a simple top-up shop, a meal for tonight and some food to go?

The Grocer did just that, shopping across 11 convenience fascias (Best-one, Budgens, Costcutter, Family Shopper, Londis, Nisa, One Stop, Premier, Simply Fresh, Spar and Today’s).

Each was armed with a shopping list containing a basic top-up shop (a loaf of Warburtons, a pint of milk, a box of PG tips, a pack of dried spaghetti, a packet of Hula Hoops and a small bottle of Coca-Cola), plus a meal for that night (Lasagne, a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a bottle of Blossom Hill). If a product had sold out, or was not stocked, a sensible substitution was made (eg swapping a fish pie for lasagne).

Average prices at the supermarkets

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream 500ml £4.23

Blossom Hill wine white zinfandel £6.00

Own-label lasagne 400-450g £2.07

Warburtons Toastie 800g £1.00

Milk pint £0.46

PG Tips 40 £7.29

Spaghetti 500g £0.69

Hula Hoops single pack 0.60p

Coca-Cola 500ml £1.26

Total £17.60

Our shoppers were also asked to score the shop out of 10 across five different factors (internal and external appearance, store layout, store standards and customer service) to assess their overall experience.

Finally they were asked to pick up some food to go (from whatever looked most appealing, whether it came from a hot counter or a simple sandwich meal deal). They were then asked to give their choice a star rating out of five.

Although inspired by the Grocer 33, this exercise was different. We have not declared a ‘winner’ on price as substitutions will have distorted the final total, making a fair comparison impossible (in the Grocer 33 the prices of each product are taken online from Brand View and no substitutions are allowed). However, we have added the average prices of each item at the supermarkets (see left) to offer a comparison on individual price against the supermarkets.

Equally, there is no ‘winner’ when it comes to customer experience. The eleven individual stores are very different. We are not judging them, but taking them as we find them.

As such, the results are inconclusive compared to the Grocer 33, but over the next 11 articles this snapshot throws up plenty of interesting insight about the convenience market in 2017.