With a new store manager who has been at the helm for less than nine months, and a refit scheduled for 2008 to more than double the store's square footage, it is amazing the staff at Sainsbury's in Christchurch, Dorset, have been able to devote so much time to their shoppers. But they have, and this week they were rewarded for their efforts with The Grocer 33 Top Store award. Our shopper said the store was well presented with exceptionally helpful staff. It also provided a full basket of items. The 38,000 sq ft store is located on a main road near to Christchurch and Bournemouth. The area is saturated with choice as there is a 100,000 sq ft Tesco flagship store nearby as well as Waitrose, Asda, Morrisons and Somerfield. Moreover, CACI data shows Sainsbury's is the least- suited store in the area to the average shopper. But the team aren't threatened by the competition. In fact, it is what drives them to provide the best possible service and availability, according to store manager Tom O'Connor. "There is a lot of competition but our customers are loyal to us," he said. "We also get a lot of passing business from holidaymakers and trade is up 40% during the summer. It's great when we get feedback from customers about how clean and friendly they found the store. It makes the team's hard graft worthwhile."

Q&A with Tom O'Connor Store manager of the week


What kind of management headaches do you experience? To be honest I worry more about how Arsenal are doing than I worry about my role as manager, simply because the staff are an absolute pleasure to work with and I also get amazing support from head office. I have worked for Sainsbury's for 26 years now and started when I was 16 as a trolley boy. I have held a number of positions at the company and have experience of working in various departments. There is little about working for Sainsbury's that could worry me now. How do you achieve such strong availability? Before joining this store I worked as the implementation manager at Sainsbury's head office in Holborn. I was responsible for overseeing various availability issues for about 150 stores. Availability is a really important issue for me. We achieve 98% availability in our store on a daily basis. If you could change one thing about your store what would it be? I would bring forward the refit programme, which is scheduled for June next year. It is in the planning stages and, if everything goes through smoothly, we will not only be more than doubling in size, but also launching online sales and a significant non food section. We will then be able to give the nearby Tesco flagship store a real run for its money. How do you motivate staff? Within the wider company there is a scheme called Tell Justin and I have implemented an in-house scheme called, imaginatively enough, Tell Tom! We ask the staff to make suggestions as to how the store could be better. More than 40 suggestions from the team have been introduced, including giving staff who have passed their training but are still new to the role learner badges. I reward suggestions with vouchers and a thank you letter. We also have team huddles every morning and it is a great way to receive and give feedback.


Asda Hatfield, Hertfordshire

1 - Our shopper was impressed by the friendly staff at this Asda. One assistant took her to a product she couldn't find and the checkout staff were courteous and helped pack her bags without asking. However, the milk was out of stock as the delivery had apparently been delayed. We visited on 28 September at 11.10am. Our shop lasted 43 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was seven minutes.


Morrisons Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

0 - Our shopper's overall experience was good at this Morrisons. It provided all 33 products and the store was clean, tidy and well laid out. The shelves were well stocked and our shopper said staff were helpful when she asked for help to find missing products. It was a strong runner-up for this week's best store. We visited on 28 September at 11.35am. Our shop lasted 60 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was five minutes.


Sainsbury's Christchurch, Dorset

0 - This week's champion store received praise for the exceptionally helpful and cheerful staff. Despite visiting the store during a busy period, there were no out-of-stocks and the aisles were clean and well organised. Our shopper was particularly impressed by the fact that 20 of the 24 checkouts were operating. We visited on 28 September at 10.20am. Our shop lasted one hour and 20 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was eight minutes.


Somerfield Springburn, Glasgow

3 - Despite being this week's worst performer in terms of out-of-stocks, our shopper was keen to stress that the staff could not have been more helpful and polite. Two of the three out-of-stock items on The Grocer 33 list were on promotion - McVitie's milk chocolate digestives and Birds Eye frozen chicken curry. We visited on 28 September at 10.05am. Our shop lasted 66 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was four minutes.


Tesco Chichester, West Sussex

2 - Our shopper described this store as dishevelled with litter outside the shop front and a number of packing trolleys and boxes blocking the dairy aisle. There were two out-of-stocks - Cadbury's Milk Chocolate Fingers and the Birds Eye frozen chicken curry. However, the attentive and cheerful service from staff members was impressive. We visited on 28 September at 6.10pm. Our shop lasted 55 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was seven minutes. waitrose Esher, Surrey 0 Our shopper enjoyed a pleasant shop and went straight through the checkout without having to queue. This Waitrose was clean and clutter-free, provided a full basket and the staff were amenable. It was another strong contender for the Top Store award. We visited on 28 September at 11.28pm. Our shop lasted 30 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was three minutes.