Where has your career taken you in more than 30 years in grocery? I began at Asda back in the 1970s. I started out as a sales assistant in the electrical appliances department. I progressed through Asda and became store manager for the first time in 1980. Since then I’ve worked in stores from South Devon to Aberdeen, moving over to Safeway, which later became Morrisons, about 14 years ago. I was ready for a change. I had been working in London stores and was not happy in that part of the world.
Being on the English Riviera, how does tourism affect the store? Ours is quite a seasonal store. We have Paignton Zoo next door, so in the summer we get a lot of lunchtime and late afternoon trade. When the summer starts, we also have holidaymakers coming in to buy things for their caravans, and in peak season there is a lot of demand for hard water tea. We sell more of it in July and August than at any other time of the year. The tourist trade does mean that we have to be on our toes with availability and ordering.
How has trading been this summer season? It’s been a bit mixed but better than last year. The weather hasn’t been brilliant but it is better overall and that’s had a positive effect on trading.
Our mystery shopper was impressed by the customer service at the store. Do you think the Morrisons HOT service initiative has helped? Definitely. All our senior staff went on a two-day HOT service course and we are currently working through 12 modules with department managers and supervisors to pass on what we learnt. It’s all about teamwork and enhancing their coaching skills, and there’s a huge sense of fun that comes with it. I’m really pleased that the work is paying dividends.
What did you make of the story that sales of big cereal brands are in decline? There is a lot of new product development in cereal. It is true that there is maybe a slight decline in more traditional cereals, but a lot of new products are moving through pretty well at our store.
Do you have any interesting initiatives coming up at the store? We’re about to put in new ready meals and change how they’re branded to make life easier for customers. Products will come under two new banners - Meals for Us and Meals for One. We have a lot of singles from an older generation in the area so there’s definitely a market for single-portion ready meals.