Superbly attentive customer service, an absence of packing trolleys, impeccable merchandising and barely a wait at the checkout came together to deliver a class act at Sainsbury Whitley Bay

In today&'s tough retail climate, &'good&' customer service does not quite cut it any more. Customers demand excellence and stores need to go the extra mile. And often it&'s the little things that count - as our winner this week demonstrates.
Sainsbury&'s store in Whitley Bay faced fierce competition from Morrisons, Somerfield and Tesco to win our award. What clinched it for Debra Nicholson and her team was the high levels of service our mystery shopper enjoyed.
Rather than just pointing our shopper in the direction of products that he needed, for instance, every single member of staff at the Whitley store insisted on taking him directly to where he needed to go. Extra care had been taken to ensure that none of the packing trolleys in the aisles caused any obstruction, and staff were full of smiles which made for a cheerful atmosphere.
Our shopper was also impressed by the &'impeccable&' merchandising and presentation of products. He also spent a very short time queuing at the checkout where all his goods were packed for him.
Morrisons, Somerfield and Tesco also did well, excelling in terms of customer service this week, with all stores praised by our mystery shoppers for being clean and tidy, and for being filled with polite staff. Queuing times were minimal this week, and not one of our shoppers spent more than two minutes waiting at the checkout.
Gaelle Walker

Q&A with Debra Nicholson Manager of the Week
this week a year ago The winner was...
Price Survey

Top-Up shop
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your working history? I have been with Sainsbury for 20 years now and in that time I have had a variety of roles. This includes some time in a regional role, a few store openings, and I have been a store manager for six years. I joined Whitley Bay 18 months ago. Before that, I was the store manager at Cramlington, which was a conversion from a Safeway store. What is your store like? Whitley Bay is 17 years old and has had one refurbishment in that time. But it's a very bright and clean store and has a really great atmosphere - which is largely due to the team of people we have here. How does your team work together? They're fantastic. When we told them that they had won The Grocer 33's Top Store Award they were doing cartwheels outside the door! We all get along extremely well and that's why there is always a really friendly atmosphere in store. I was away in the week that your mystery shopper visited and my duty manager Simon Dunleavy was actually in charge. So the fact we won is testament to the strength of the entire team here. They have a lot of pride in this store and are really focused on what we need to achieve. What is the best bit about your job? It's the people. Sure, it's great putting a smile on our customers' faces, but it is equally satisfying to see the way that individuals within the store achieve and work together. What is your greatest challenge? Making sure that we continue to improve customer service, making sure shoppers are satisfied day in and day out. We are very well aware of the competition and have to do everything we can to look after our customers so they choose to keep shopping with us. What are your plans for the future? I am really happy at Whitley Bay and don't see myself leaving any time soon. I want to spend the next 12 months focusing on improving our availabilty and service so we continue the sales growth we have been enjoying.
Paul Chapman was our winning store manager this time last year. When we last spoke to Chapman, his Safeway megastore at Stratford was just about to be converted to a Morrisons, a move about which he and his team were more than a little apprehensive. However, 12 months on and all is well in Stratford. Chapman, who is now well into his second year at the store, said that the conversion process went smoothly and that his customers were loving the new concept and Morrisons offer. He said: "It was hard work but it was also very rewarding. I also learnt a lot about myself and my team. The customers are really happy with the change and they are showing that by coming back in their droves each week."
Gaelle Walker Tesco's decision to raise the price of its milk has had an immediate impact on this week's shopping basket, as the cost of four pints at the chain jumps from £1 to £1.11. Milk prices crashed in the supermarket sector after Asda introduced its 'four pints for a pound' pledge, with only Waitrose holding firm. While Tesco's decision to raise prices was warmly welcomed in farming circles last week, our survey confirms that rivals are still sticking with their £1 price point. The milk price initiative is one of the main reasons why Tesco failed to report the cheapest basket in a week when the major supermarkets proved to be highly competitive on our list of 33 products. Asda came out cheapest at £39.92, followed by Tesco with a basket costing £40.09. In third place it was Sainsbury with a £40.30 price tag for its basket. Last week, we reported that Tesco was the cheapest (its milk price pledge had yet to come into effect), followed by Sainsbury with Asda in third place. The contents of our basket are now changing on a weekly basis, as we look to build up a wider picture of pricing in the supermarket sector using The Grocer 100 Index, supported by the results of The Grocer 33 mystery shops. Looking at this week's basket, one of the most notable things to report is that the retail price of white grapes has risen dramatically since we last included them in one of our shopping baskets in March. Back then 1kg of white grapes was costing an average of £2.03; this week the average price is a whopping £3.02/kg. The price of standard tomatoes is also higher than in March when the average price was £1.15/kg; this week it had jumped to an average price of £1.30/kg. The chains continue to price match on many products, notably KVIs and branded lines, with little to differentiate between them. The main price differences we have noticed this week are related to the non food products we have included. The basket contents will change again for The Grocer 33 next week.
Asda Kingston, Surrey
30 Wall's Viennetta and McCain hash browns were not sold at Asda's Kingston store in Surrey as it has a very limited frozen foods section. The store also does not stock Kleenex for Men tissues in a 2x100 pack, meaning that our shopper left the store with just 30 items in his basket. He spotted one deal on bananas. We visited on 16 June 2006 at 16.00. Our shop lasted 45 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 6 minutes. tesco Milngavie, Strathclyde
33 Tesco's Milngavie store in Strathclyde, Scotland, provided all 33 items on the list this week. Our mystery shopper spotted five deals, which were offers being run on white seedless grapes, Kleenex for Men tissues, Pringles Original, Danone Bio Activia and also Mars bars 6-packs. We visited on 16 June 2006 at 9.40. Our shop lasted 58 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 5 minutes. sainsbury Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
33 Sainsbury's Whitley Bay store provided all 33 items on our shopper's list and claimed the week's Top Store award. There was a good deal of promotional activity going on in-store. Our shopper spotted a money-off deal on Wall's Viennetta and a 14% extra free offer on 2x100 packs of Kleenex for Men tissues. We visited on 16 June 2006 at 08.88 Our shop lasted 90 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 3 minutes. morrisons Oldham, Lancashire
33 Morrisons delivered another strong availability performance this week when its Oldham store in Lancashire provided all 33 items on The Grocer 33's shopping list. Our mystery shopper spotted three deals as he made his way around the store, on Kleenex for Men tissues, Pringles Original 200g tubes and Wall's Viennetta. We visited on 16 June 2006 at 12.00. Our shop lasted 57 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 3 minutes. somerfield Bury St Edmunds
33 Somerfield Bury St Edmunds provided our shopper with all 33 items on our list, and was a strong contender for this week's Top Store award. She spotted three deals from The Grocer 33 list, including a two-for-£1.50 on Dolmio Bolognese sauce, three for £2.50 on Pringles Original, and two for £5 on Nescafé Original coffee. We visited on 16 June 2006 at 17.00. Our shop lasted 50 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 42 minutes. waitrose Cirencester, Gloucestershire
32 Waitrose's Sheep Street store in Cirencester narrowly missed out on a full basket as it was out of stock of own label fresh penne pasta. Our shopper spotted five deals during her trip, including offers on Nescafé Original and Schweppes tonic water. We visited on 16 June 2006 at 14.00. Our shop lasted 54 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was 6 minutes.
Who we visited LONDIS Heald Green, Stockport BUDGENS Chessington, Surrey Tesco METRO Kirkintilloch, Glasgow Spar Trowbridge, Wiltshire total bonjour Thames Ditton, Surrey How they performed
This week our shoppers visited a Londis, a Budgens, a Tesco Metro, a Spar, and a Total Bonjour forecourt store. Three of the five stores provided full shopping baskets, with Budgens providing the cheapest till receipt of the three as a result of good prices on staples such as bread, tea, bacon and milk. It wasn't just the great prices that impressed our Budgens shopper, he also had a really positive experience in the store. As well being able to pick up all ten items on our list, our shopper liked the store's layout and merchandising, which meant he had no trouble locating everything that he needed in super-quick time. In fact, with great service at the till, he was in and out of the store in under 10 minutes. Second in line for price - and service - was Tesco Metro in Kirkintilloch. Its 10-item basket came to £14.60. It had the cheapest price for Fairy washing up liquid at 98p, its own label butter block at 53p and Whiskas catfood at 48p. Our mystery shopper was impressed by the number of promotions that he could see as he made his way around the store, and he noted three on our Top Up Shopping list. There was an eight for £7.00 deal on Stella Artois, a two for £4.50 on Tetley tea bags and a two for £2.30 on a 2-litre bottle of Coca-Cola. The store was clean and tidy and he was further impressed when the checkout assistant also packed his goods. The Total Bonjour store in Thames Ditton also impressed by providing our shopper with a full basket. But at £5.36 it had the most expensive Stella Artois of the shops visited, which pushed it into third place overall when it came to price.