Manager Gary Clarke Asda Roehampton store

Manager Gary Clarke (left) in the newly updated Asda Roehampton store

The leafy London suburb of Wimbledon is a curate’s egg. In the village there are independent butchers, bakers (Gail’s), delis, a fine wine shop and the upmarket grocer Bayley & Sage as well as the obligatory Tesco Express.

In the more downmarket high street, large convenience stores have developed around the busy station, while the old, small Sainsbury’s that opened in the 1960s, and an oddly shaped Morrisons (a converted Safeway) are quite dated.

Instead, supermarkets for the weekly shop have mostly been developed in out of town locations, some outside Wimbledon’s SW19 and SW20 postcodes. Like the 56,000 sq ft Asda on the A3, two miles from the town centre. And the newly updated store is our latest single location store of the week.

With a “lovely modern” McDonald’s, and Valentine’s Day displays featuring “loads of red flowers, red underwear and champagne,” the entrance to the store works much better, with a “really great” view right down the store, which is “wide open, tidy, modern and very inviting”. The layout was also intuitive (though “some overhanging signs didn’t correspond to what was in the aisles”), staff were “everywhere”, “busy and super helpful and knowledgable” (though our shopper was confused by “so many uniform variances”). The biggest issue was the checkout, after a customer issue led to a queue.

For a full service Sainsbury’s, we visited the hypermarket in Colliers Wood, two miles the other side of Wimbledon town centre. It was once Sainsbury’s biggest store but the space has been shared with an M&S since the early noughties. Even so, at 69,000 sq ft the store is still big. But despite its size, and a “great” car park, the store disappointed. The entrance was “underwhelming”, with “not a very dazzling display of anything”. Lots of trolleys were causing obstructions, many unmanned. Most of the counters were also unmanned. And our shopper was surprised to find food to go at the back of the store. On a more positive note, shop floor service impressed, with staff “smart, busy and helpful”. The cashier was pleasant.

At 85,000 sq ft, the even bigger Tesco hypermarket in nearby New Malden was in contrast “overwhelming”, said our shopper, especially the entrance, with all the “barriers, security, helpdesks, scanners, escalators, a bit of Valentine’s, a bit of Easter and some bulk buys. I felt exhausted and I hadn’t even started shopping.”

The store was “good to shop” in terms of space, logic and signage, and availability was strong, but there were “lots of pallets near the end of aisles with one promotional item on… all round the store, too much and in the way”. And there were “very few staff around”, although on the flipside that meant “a lovely absence of pickers”.

Half a mile from the town centre, the 17,000 sq ft Waitrose, on the site of a former B&Q, is more central, while lacking the space of its rivals. (Indeed there’s a Lidl just down the road that was extended to 29,000 sq ft in 2022, making it the largest in the country.) The car park is also cramped, but was “well managed”. On the other hand the entrance display, featuring “plants, Valentine’s Day flowers, booze, chocolates… and loo roll” was “lacklustre”. Inside the fruit & veg section was “very gappy”, and the cheese, meat, sushi, deli and fish counters “seemed depleted” and were manned by a single member of staff. Our shopper also didn’t like the fact that items had been moved to promo spots so were not available in the regular section, or the stacks of boxes in unmanned trolleys, and she noted “very few staff around” in general. The saving grace was the checkout operator in what seemed an “unfriendly” shop.

In last place, the Morrisons on the Broadway, at 27,000 sq ft, is a big store for a town centre shop, but whether you were entering from the car park or the high street, it was “the worst welcome I’ve ever seen”, said our mystery shopper, with a “vast” but unmanned counter called ‘The Oven’.

A “counterintuitive” store layout meant our shopper “wandered around and around but couldn’t find” the items on her list, even when “pointed in the general direction of them”. In one example the biscuits were located across two aisles. And while staff tried to help, it was half hearted staff. “I got a sense of doom in the store”, said our shopper. Availability was also poor. The saving grace was the sole checkout assistant.