sainsbury's liverpool ian collins

Our mystery shopper really liked the layout of your store. We had a refurbishment two-and-a-half years ago, when we went from being 40,000 sq ft to 60,000 sq ft. That was before my time. I started 18 months ago and before that I opened the new Sainsbury’s in Blackpool. That was a similar store in terms of format and the offer, which was pretty comprehensive.

Do you agree with analysts that the days of large supermarkets are numbered? No, I think all formats have their place. The supermarket definitely still has a place because we offer things the local c-store can’t, and customers will travel some distancebecause of the offer we have.

You are one of three Sainbury’s branches involved in the ‘autism-friendly’ trial. How is that going? In terms of anecdotal feedback, it’s been a real success. Last week we had a call from a customer with an autistic child who took time out when she got home to say she had a fantastic shopping experience with us. Based on the training provided by Autism Adventures and ourselves, colleagues were able to spot her needs because she was finding things quite challenging at the checkout. Colleagues took them out to their car and got them settled. The lady’s partner came in last weekend and shook my hand and said, ‘Thanks for making things so simple for us’. I think getting this feedback really spurs on our colleagues to look out for opportunities even more.

At the Sainsbury’s press show last week, there was a real focus on free-from innovations. How is the category doing in your store? Free-from continues to grow as part of the business. Not long ago, we launched a free-from bakery in store, which is going really well. The beauty is it’s fresh every day and customers have not been used to that. We can make bread as and when our customers need it, which is fantastic. I think it sells really well and again going back to your point about the rise of convenience stores, we can only really achieve a full free-from range in a supermarket of this size.

How far along are you with your preparations for Mother’s Day and Easter? I love this time of year because events come at you thick and fast. That’s why we work in this industry. We’ve got Mother’s Day merchandise in and, once we’ve finished with that, we will go for the full Easter ranges. The thing with any event is just making sure it’s an exciting opportunity to inspire the team and customers.

Winner: Sainsbury’s Rice Lane, Liverpool

Store manager: Ian Collins

Size: 60,000 sq ft

Opened: 1999

Market share: 5.4%

Nearest rivals: Aldi - 0.1 miles, Co-op - 0.4 miles, Tesco - 0.7 miles, Iceland - 0.8 miles

Store data source: Analysis by CACI. Call the market planning group on 020 7602 6000