None of the retailers could manage a full basket this week, but the Tenterden branch of Waitrose in rural Kent provided the best shopping experience, offering the strongest availability, a welcoming atmosphere and fantastic customer service, elevating Waitrose to the top spot in our Service Champs leaderboard. Staff morale was high at the 14,000 sq ft store, according to our shopper. The fresh produce aisle and meat and fish counters were well-stocked. Our shopper was also pleased to see the store manager chatting with shoppers. Although the store could not provide a full basket because the required size of Green Giant sweetcorn was not stocked, it was particularly impressive on the customer service front, said our shopper, who was personally guided to items by an assistant. The store benefits from a dearth of competition in the area, however, with the only other supermarket in a 12-mile radius of the 17-year-old store a Tesco. CACI data indicates the store is in prime Waitrose territory, with 58% of residents classed as wealthy achievers. "This is a well-established store in a wealthy area," said store manager Kevin Charlton. "There are more antique shops than supermarkets here, and the closest other Waitrose branch is 20 miles away. But people are very passionate about the quality and provenance of their food and have extremely high standards."

Q&A with Kevin Charlton Duty manager of the week


Are your shoppers demanding? They demand high-quality produce and rightly so. If a product fails to meet their expectations, they will quickly let us know they are disappointed. But our staff have specialist knowledge of many products and we are receptive to customers' suggestions for stocking new ranges. We may not always be able to offer every item they want, but we do take their ideas very seriously. After all, our customers are our business. Which products are selling well at the moment? Our wine promotion is proving successful and customers are willing to trade up to Champagnes as well. The Waitrose Christmas hampers are also popular and we have made a large pyramid display of them at the front of the store, which is boosting sales. The premium £150 hamper is a big seller this year. Customers have to order them first as we don't stock them. Local produce such as Battle Bakery biscuits and Chapel Down wines are also popular. At 17 years old, does your store need a makeover? Next year we are replacing the refrigeration units, chillers, counters and fresh produce and grocery fixtures. This will mean our availability is stronger and it will also enable us to expand our ranges. It would be good to expand the store as well so that we can showcase our products and the knowledge of our partners. How do you instill such high staff morale? We are located in a tight-knit community and there is a lovely atmosphere in the town. It is especially nice at the moment because students are returning home for the Christmas holidays and taking up their old jobs again. The younger staff tend to socialise together, which helps create a warm atmosphere in the store. We also work hard in the community and provided food and drink for spectators while the Tour de France was taking place in town.


Asda Ipswich, Suffolk

2 - It was crowded and hectic at this Asda, and stocks of bread and fresh produce were low. The pears and eggs were sold out but a busy floor assistant stopped what he was doing to guide our shopper to a product. Samples of Pimms and oven chips were gratefully received but added to the congestion in the aisles. We visited on 30 November at 1.50pm. Our shop lasted one hour and 10 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was six minutes.


Morrisons Cowgate, Newcastle upon Tyne

1 - Our shopper said this Morrisons branch was easy to navigate and that products were grouped together in a logical way. Many shoppers were buying wine, thanks to a promotion, but shelves remained well-stocked. The checkout operator was polite and efficient. The required size of tomato purée was out of stock. We visited on 30 November at 9.20am. Our shop lasted one hour and 15 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was five minutes.


Sainsbury's Chesham, Buckinghamshire

1 - Our shopper was impressed by how quickly a floor assistant cleaned up a splattered yoghurt pot in the aisle at this Sainsbury's store. Availability was adequate, although the Oxo cubes were sold out. Our shopper accidentally set off the security alarm as she left the store, but the guard dealt with her respectfully. We visited on 30 November at 1.40pm. Our shop lasted 49 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was three minutes.


Somerfield Standish, Lancashire

1 - There was a wide variety of competitive special offers at this popular Somerfield store in Standish. The aisles were clear and the signage was clear and accurate. The fruit scones were out of stock, but the store was expecting a delivery. Only five of the 11 tills were open, which resulted in queues. We visited on 30 November at 9.15am. Our shop lasted 32 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was five minutes.


Tesco Woolton, Liverpool

1 - Overall this store was adequately clean and tidy, but the fresh produce section had a number of gaps. A shelf-stacker was unhelpful and didn't tell our shopper where a specific product could be found. However, the checkout staff were good-natured when she asked if she could swap the Oxo cubes to the correct size on the shopping list. We visited on 30 November at 6.05pm. Our shop lasted 50 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was five minutes.


Waitrose Tenterden, Kent

0 - This high street Waitrose was perfectly clean and well-merchandised, and the checkout assistant was chatty and efficient. The store did not stock the Green Giant sweetcorn but there were plenty of staff who were keen to help our shopper find the product. We visited on 30 November at 5.40pm. Our shop lasted 45 minutes. Time spent at the checkout was four minutes.