After six weeks out in the cold, Tesco has finally pulled a winning performance out of the hat. The staff at the recently redesigned Falkirk store in Scotland really know how to impress.

Managing change is one of the toughest challenges for any leader, but it’s all in a day’s work for Billy Nisbet, whose Falkirk store secured Tesco’s Top Store award this week.

He has been in the job for barely six months, but has already successfully overseen a major refubishment of the 50,000 sq ft retail space. “We spent an awful lot of money on the shop,” says Nisbet. “Every fixture in the store was altered and all the signposting and displays were redesigned. We fundamentally set out to make sure we could deliver the best possible experience for our customers.”

What makes the achievement all the more remarkable is that all this was happening while dealing with the regular challenges that running a 24-hour store presents. “I go on nights once a quarter for a week to spend some time with the staff,” he says. “It’s also important to look at the store from a customer’s perspective and make sure we’re catering for their needs, whatever the time of day.”

Nisbet is at the sharp end of operations and spends about 70% of his time on the shop floor. He regularly uses mystery shoppers to detect any operational issues, a system he claims gives a true snapshot of the store’s performance.

With the rest of the big five – except Waitrose – all operating stores in the area, the pressure is on to deliver a five-star performance and win the loyalty of the hard-pressed local population. The Falkirk store certainly delivers that.

Q&A with Billy Nisbet  Store manager of the week

How big a challenge is managing availability in a 24-hour store?
We start by doing two-hour inspections every morning to identify any problems with stock. We are also a dotcom store, so the reports we get back from our online business are a great indicator of our in-store availability.

Has the credit crunch had a noticeable effect on customers’ shopping habits in the past few months?
We’ve definitely noticed a change in what people are buying and try to reflect this in our promotions. For example, we’re running a lot more half-price deals at the moment than 3-for-2s, because this is what people want. We also have power aisles in store where we have a lot of special offers going on. Fresh produce has always been very strong here and takes over 12% of trade so we reflect it in the space we devote to fresh food.

Our shopper was hugely impressed with the level of customer service in store. How do you get 450 employees to sing from the same hymn sheet? 
It’s something we tackle collectively. We have what we call ‘firelighters’ in each department who speak to employees about any issues that may have arisen and report back to management. We also ensure that we have a very strong and visible management presence on the shop floor at all times. 

How does Tesco Falkirk get involved in community initiatives?
We have a designated community champion in store, whose job it is to build partnerships with the local community. We have strong links with local schools. We recently ran a campaign where the kids drew five-a-day themed pictures which were then displayed in store. We want to try and encourage people to engage with healthy eating. 

How competitive is the retail landscape in Falkirk?
Extremely competitive. All the big four are present in Falkirk, plus Lidl and the Co-op. I make sure I visit rival stores regularly to keep abreast of their pricing and promotional activity.