Waitrose flour aisle

Waitrose has chalked up another Covid-19 mystery shopper victory for this high-scoring Friday afternoon trip with a strong all-round performance.

The winning store in Tonbridge was “very clean”, well-stocked, with good displays throughout and “friendly, chatty and smiley” staff.

All staff members maintained a safe social distance from customers, but only some wore masks and gloves.

Our shopper was also impressed with the near-flawless checkout experience, which was well-organised and staffed by “extremely friendly” assistants.

A point was dropped for a delay in the car park as our mystery shopper had to sign up to a mobile parking app because she had no change to pay.

Availability was strong, with one product out of stock and three not stocked.

“I really enjoyed my shopping experience and wouldn’t fault it in any way,” the shopper said.

Tesco in Streatham, London, was a close runner-up but points were lost due to some aisles being crowded following the end of the one-way system.

A mistake on the till receipt also cost the store marks, as did a lack of staff on the door to manage customer flow. There was also an unattended restocking cage causing an obstruction in one aisle.

However, the aisles were wide in the spacious Extra store, with hand sanitiser available for customer use and regular announcements to encourage social distancing.

The shelves were well-stocked – although four items on the list were not stocked – and the store was in “very good order”. Staff were easy to find and maintained good social distancing throughout.

“I was genuinely impressed with the store’s cleanliness, tidiness and stock availability,” our shopper said.

Availability caused a minor issue for Sainsbury’s in Trowbridge, with points dropped for two items out of stock and certain sections running low on products. Staff were “polite, friendly and helpful” but did not accompany our shopper when finding a product. None wore masks, with some venturing “too close” when engaging with the mystery shopper.

However, the “clean, well-organised and easy-to-negotiate” store impressed with its measures to make the shopping experience safe and clear in general, with hand sanitiser, announcements and floor markings. The tills were also very well-managed.

It was a stress-free experience in a “calm and ordered” Asda in Liverpool, with “genuine, friendly and happy to help” staff – although none wore masks. Signs were clearly visible, with reminders throughout to maintain social distancing, and sanitisers were available.

The store scored full marks for layout thanks to wide aisles, no obstruction from promotional displays and the use of a one-way system.

It did, however, have the worst availability of the week, with two lines out of stock and six not stocked, but our shopper was impressed no areas were empty or messy.

Morrisons in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, was off the pace, losing points for a lack of floor markings and no one-way system, which left the store feeling busy. The store was also messy as staff tried to replenish, with a pile of frozen pizzas left on the floor unattended waiting to be stocked, and some obstructions in aisles. Staff were also out of the way and difficult to find at times.


This week’s results:

WEEK 6: Friday  17/07/2020 (1.00pm - 4.00pm)    WINNER
  Asda Morrisons Sainsbury’s Tesco Waitrose 
Location Liverpool Peterhead Trowbridge London Tonbridge
Date  17/07/2020 17/07/2020 17/07/2020 17/07/2020 17/07/2020
Time slot  1-4pm 1-4pm 1-4pm 1-4pm 1-4pm
Shop starts 13:10 02:45pm 01:02pm 01:30pm 02:49pm
Visit Duration 01:00 01:11 01:09 01:15 00:57
Shop Duration 00:55 01:01 00:58 01:00 00:50
Car Park  (10) 8 9 9 8 9
Signposting (up to 1) 0 1 1 1 1
Queueing time to park (up to 2) 2 2 2 2 2
Trolleys (up to 2) 2 1 1 1 2
Queueing time from parking the car to enter the store (up to 3) 3 3 3 3 2
Feedback (up to 2)  1 2 2 1 2
  It is very easy to miss the turn off for the store and drive straight past it. There is no signage on either side from the road that runs alongside it and it only becomes clear you have missed the turn off when you notice the petrol station sign sticking up and realizing the road ahead is just full of houses. The actual turn off is a very narrow lane which you go down and at the end of the lane the store becomes visible. The one way system around the car park is very clear. There were no queues to enter when I arrived. A big banner reminding people to social distance was up across the railings, and barriers were in place to enter and exit the store safely. There were no markings on the floor where customers would be if there was a queue, and no staff member visible to manage any queue, which is understandable considering there wasn’t one! Security guard with counter telling people when they could come in. Areas for queues to form were created with barricades One entrance was blocked off with one entrance only being used as an entrance and exit. There was markings on the floor to guide you as to where to stand and keep a safe distance. There was a dividing line for those people entering and exiting the shop and a member of staff was instructing people if they required assistance. The staff member was also counting people in and out on a counter to ensure that the shop was kept at a safe level. There were no barriers but I felt that the scheme had been well thought through and I only had one person in front of me when I arrived so was able to walk straight in. The carpark entrance and exit were well signposted. There were trolleys parked neatly in the correct bays around the carpark. There was no queue to enter the carpark or enter the store. There were no staff members present at the entrance and only signs to encourage social distancing. There was a table with hand sanitiser and disenfectant (I assumed this was for the trolley handles but there was no sign to say so). There was no sign pointing towards this and it was easily missed - nobody was using this. There were signs throughout the carpark explaining how to pay for the parking but the system was not operational and there was nothing on the touch screens or machines to indicate this. Everything about the car park was good, except that you had to pay and I didn’t have any change, so I had to sign up to the ParkMobile app, which took quite a long time. But the car park was well signposted, plenty of spaces, and you receive an hour of parking back as a discount on your shop.
Store standards (20) 16 11 19 17 17
First impression (up to 5)  3 2 5 3 2
Feedback  As soon as I entered the store I could clearly see how the barriers were separating those entering the store to those leaving it. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray for the trolleys were available immediately to the left of me. Signs were clearly visible with reminders to socially distance and use the sanitizers available. The atmosphere was calm and ordered. No markings on the floor and no one way system meant the shop felt busy with customers From the outset of arriving at Sainsbury’s, I was impressed by the measures that they had taken and the thought they had put into making the shopping experience as safe and clear given the current conditions as possible. On entering the store there was a workstation to the left that had a hand sanitizer and also paper towels and a further sanitizer for use on the trolley. The trolleys were stacked neatly outside with lots of space around them so you didn’t need to be close to someone to collect one and there were no external displays which meant that people were not loitering in the entrance area which could have put people at risk. The staff member at the door was answering any questions and advising people as required and I entered the shop easily, quickly and without having to be near any other persons. Once in the shop the tannoy was encouraging people to use a phone app to do their shopping to speed their shopping up and prevent unnecessary handling of items and therefore cross contamination. The announcement was calm and informative and was presented in a manner to encourage people to help us keep safe. There were also markings on all the floors for 2 metre distances and running up to each till there were also footprints to tell you where to stand while waiting for your turn at the till. The restriction on numbers at the door also meant that it was very easy to walk around without passing close to other customers. The store was not particularly crowded and the aisles are wide. In addition there was a large space at the entrance for customers to stop, look at their lists and work out where to go without having to cause a crowd. There was another table here with access to hand sanitisers. There were announcements as I went around the store encouraging people to keep a distance from one another. The store was not very busy at the time I was there, but staff were friendly and smiley, and there was a nice display of wine in the entrance.
Displays (up to 3)  2 1 2 3 3
Availability and replenishment (up to 5)  5 2 5 5 5
Feedback  I was both surprised and impressed at how well stocked all shelves were. There were no particularly messy sections nor areas that had been stripped bare. The alcohol aisle was being replenished whilst I was there but even that looked pretty well stocked already. Got off to a great start with the fruit and veg areas well stocked and being replenished. From there it started to become disappointing. I noticed a pile of frozen pizzas laying on the floor unattended waiting to be stocked. I past by the pizzas for a at least 4 minutes and didn’t see any member of staff in that particular aisle There were certain products that were either limited or sold out e.g. there were only a handful of bananas left on the shelf, certain cereals etc. However there was still lots of choice and the essential items that had been an issue in the past e.g. bread, flour, toilet paper etc were well plentiful. There were several staff around the store involved in shelf stacking but they appeared to have small trolleys of items rather than the large ones on wheels so it was easy to negotiate them without getting too close to others. They also volunteered to move away when I tried to access a product that would have put me too close to them. I could find no shelves or items that were completely out of stock and there were generally good stock levels throughout the store. Staff were working hard to fill shelves where stock was low and were keeping a safe distance from customers. On one occasion I needed to access a shelf where a staff member was restocking and she immediately jumped out of the way to enable me to maintain a distance. All shelves were well-stocked. Staff were replenishing the deli aisle while I was there.
Obstructions  (up to 3)  3 2 3 2 3
Spillages (up to 2)  2 2 2 2 2
Condition of the store in terms of cleanliness (up to 2)  1 2 2 2 2
Feedback N/A There was an aisle set aside for trolleys to queue in to make things manageable. This was manned at all times The store was clean, well organized and easy to negotiate. The Fishmonger’s, Butchers, Pizza and hot food and delicatessen were all closed with only the Bakery and patisserie of the inside stores open so there were more limited products available. However, this was obviously done to minimize risk and enhance the space. The aisles besides being roomy were also clean and uncluttered. There was one empty basket that someone had left on the floor unattended but otherwise the store was well maintained with good sineage and I saw no litter either in the car park or inside the store. The store was in very good order. All areas were clean and tidy and there was a good standard of decor. There was only one place where I encountered a cage with new stock that had nobody attending to it. Really nice store, felt very clean and staff making a conscious effort to be chatty and friendly.
Store layout (10) 10 6 5 8 8
Did the store layout seem logical and intuitive? (up to 2)  2 2 1 2 2
Was it easy to navigate the store while also feeling safe? (up to 6)  6 2 2 4 4
Did the store offered any Click & Collect services? (up to 2) 2 2 2 2 2
Shop Floor Service (20) 18 11 13 18 18
Product location (up to 5)  5 3 3 5 5
Staff politness/responsiveness (up to 5)  5 4 4 5 5
Feedback The staff I spoke to were all really friendly, polite and happy to help. I asked the young man replenishing the alcohol aisle if they stocked the Smirnoff seltzer I was looking for and he looked up with a smile and apologised for the fact that they didn’t, but advised me to try one of the bigger Asda stores such as Walton, where he said I should be able to find it. Another female member of staff took me to the aisle where the kids ready meals are and checked with me to make sure they were the actual ones I was looking for. The lady from the bakery helped me to find the donuts. She pointed me in the direction of them, started to walk away, and then came back and apologised because she had told me they were on the left but they were actually on the right. I thought all the staff members were really genuine and wanted to help. Staff were clearly busy throughout the store working hard to stock up products. Despite this they were always happy to help out when I asked I asked staff on three separate occasions where an item might be located. All the staff were friendly and helpful but none actually showed me to the product. However given the current climate I felt that this was appropriate. As I was clearly directed as to where the products were it enabled me to go in my own time, pick other products up along the way and make sure that I kept to social distancing. If I had had to follow someone, they would have been walking around the store more than necessary and I might have found it hard to keep away from other customers if I had felt under pressure to keep up. So I therefore felt this was the right decision and I did find all the products I had asked about with the directions I was given. All items on my list were available - although some had to be bought in smaller quantities. I observed other customers asking about certain products that were not available (a gluten free quiche) and the staff member said they “thought” they didn’t stock the product. There was no shelf label to indicate they did so. N/A
Was it easy to find a member of staff (up to 3)  3 1 2 2 3
Were staff easy to identify through their uniform or name badges (up to 2)  2 0 2 2 2
Staff presentation (up to 5)  3 3 2 4 3
Feedback Each member of staff maintained a good social distance at all times, keeping a minimum of two metres away from me. This did not impede their ability to assist and made me feel safe. Some came close but with face masks now mandatory in Scotland, I always felt safe The staff were mostly available and all of them were helpful, none of the staff were wearing any form of protection and I did feel that in their efforts to help that some of them did venture too close. It was however easy to find a member of staff and I felt that they all took their time to address my issue, were polite and helpful Staff were maintaining good social distancing throughout the store including when conversing with customers. Some were wearing masks but not all and I only saw one staff member wearing gloves. It was easy to find staff as there were plenty around and they were happy to help. 0
Tills and checkouts (20) 17 19 19 17 19
 How well managed were the queues leading up to the till-operated checkouts in terms of maintaining order and social distancing?  (up to 2)  1 2 2 2 2
How well managed were the queues leading up to the self-service checkouts in terms of maintaining order and social distancing? (Please observe after you’ve completed your shop, and include observations around attentiveness to customers requiring help due to flashing lights/unattended items in bagging area)  (up to 2)  1 2 2 2 2
 How long did it take to queue (prior to scanning) (up to 4)  4 4 4 4 4
Please rate checkout staff on their customer service and safety  (up to 7)  6 6 6 6 6
Time for G33 items to be scanned (including payment)  (up to 3)  3 3 3 3 3
 Was the till receipt free of mistakes?  (up to 2)  2 2 2 0 2
Feedback - please provide any further details/feedback on the tills and checkout: It was obvious where to stand whilst waiting for the checkout due to the markings on the floor at the end of each aisle. I did not notice any member of staff managing the queues for the checkouts but everyone seemed to know what to do. The end of each aisle was facing its own checkout area and when the member of staff on the checkout was ready, having finished with the last customer, she motioned to me to come forward with my trolley. A screen was in place between myself and the checkout operator, who smiled and said hello as she began to scan my shopping which was handled swiftly but also with care. She was patient as I scrolled through my phone to find each of the e-gifts cards I had to pay with, and thanked me and said goodbye when I was ready to leave. The self service checkouts only had two customers using them. The member of staff working in that area was talking to the staff member on the next till. Most of the machines were out of use and just one man was waiting patiently in the correct place to be called forward when a machine became available. A scheme was in place where 6 checkouts were dedicated to trolleys and 1 checkout dedicated to baskets. This made sense as almost all customers had trolleys. As there were limited numbers in the store and maybe also due to the time I attended, there was only one person ahead of me on the till. I waited only 1.5 minutes until I was able to approach the till and put my items on the conveyor belt and then only a further 2 minutes to have all my items scanned. The till operator greeted me with a lovely smile, even though I was wearing a mask and was also concerned for the lady before who had put her purse in her coat pocket and she feared it may fall out and had spoken to her to regarding this. She also asked about if I had a nectar card and then helped me to use it contactless on the machine as I was unclear which way round it was supposed to be. Shopping and speaking with a mask on is not a pleasant experience and I felt that the staff member ‘Joyce’ was particularly welcoming and helpful. I didn’t particularly see anyone managing the social distancing but this was probably due to the fact that there were no queues at this time. There were certainly staff on hand and the markings with feet prints on the floor were very clear. There was a senior staff member (wearing a suit) in the till area and she was ensuring the customers socially distanced successfully. There were lines on the floor for queuing purposes. A staff member who was moving baskets saw me waiting and opened a new till for me so I only had to wait a couple of minutes to be served. He was pleasant and friendly and handled all the items carefully. He did not wear a mask or gloves and although there was a perspex screen between us it was only in place when immediately standing in front of him. Once I had moved forward to the packing area there was no screen and he was less than 2 metres away and I had to hand my ClubCard to him as that could not be scanned remotely. The cashier who served me was extremely friendly, smiled as I approached, and was very chatty but not annoyingly so at all. 10/10 experience
Availability score (20) 10 12 16 16 15
 Of the 33 items on your shopping list how many were:           
Available (up to 20) 25 27 31 29 29
Out of stock (-2 per item) 2 2 2 0 1
Not stocked (-1 per item) 6 4 0 4 3
Availability % 92.6 93.1 93.9 100.0 96.7
Please note down the items on your shopping list that were out of stock (please highlight the products that have managed to get a satisfactory substitutions) Metcalfes skinny sweet and salt popcorn, substituted with KitKats. Kingsmill blueberry cheesecake pancakes Diet Coke (24 cans) out of stock, instead bought Diet Coke (8 cans)
Mini Party Rings (Mini) out of stick, Instead bought Original Party Rings
L’Oreal Paris Casting semi permanent Hair Dye Medium Brown (they had light brown which I bought instead)
Sainsbury’s sourdough medium sliced white bread taste the difference ( I bought a sourdough loaf from the bakery instead). 
Tangerines - only stocked as 600g not 1kg
Cherry tomatoes - only stocked in 250g bags so had to buy 2. Carrots - only stocked as 1kg bags not 500g
Sunflower seeds - only stocked as 150g bags so had to buy 2
The Mallow & Marsh vanilla marshmallows were not in stock. I could’ve got raspberry ones instead but I didn’t because I don’t like them.
Please note down the items on your shopping list that were not stocked (please highlight the products that have managed to get a satisfactory substitutions)  Smirnoff seltzer orange and grapefruit premix can
Kellogg’s special k milk chocolate cereal bars
Dreamies beef and cheese mix, substituted with dreamies cheese flavour
Own label 4 minted lamb kebabs
Lindahls kvarg stracciatella
Lancashire farm low sugar fat free Greek style yoghurt, 450g
Gressingham Poisson - no substitution
 Rhubarb and Custard - no substitution
 Sliced Chicken Tikka - no substitution
 Dead Pony Club Beer (4 pack) - no substitution
N/A N/A Waitrose own-label rice noodles (I got egg noodles instead).
Waitrose World Deli spinach, feta parcels 135g
Waitrose World Deli lemon houmous with spiced apricot 150g
Please give any other details or info about your shopping trip, good or bad I enjoyed the shopping trip. It was a stress free experience. The store was quiet and everything was calm and ordered. For the most part it was easy to find what I was looking for and there always seemed to be a staff member close by if needed. It is quite a small store compared to some of the Asdas I have been to, so there were a few items not stocked that I may have been able to get in a bigger store, but generally there is still a good range available and you would be able to get most things here. Stock availability was excellent which also makes a nice change considering how things have been recently! Toilets were in use and the store seemed to be coping well with lockdown shopping. Each member of staff seemed very busy but always had time to help when asked The store felt very roomy, the aisles were wide, clear and easy to walk around with only a limited number of people in the store and markings on all the floors to advise you on distances it made it easy to keep to social distancing rules. During this pandemic, Sainsbury’s have also increased the number of click and collect slots available, increased the number of home deliveries and made special provision for vulnerable customers including giving priority to NHS workers at specific times and launching a volunteer shopping card to enable other people to do someones shopping if required.
From the approach to the store with its clear signage to the politeness of the staff and the limited numbers of customers, I felt that Sainsbury’s had thought through their policies regarding the virus and the inpact it would have on their customers.  From the store layout to the staff members attitudes and the calm and clean atmosphere portrayed by the shop it was as nice an experience as was viable in the current climate.  There were some products that were in short supply but there were plenty of alternatives, the shelves were mostly well stocked and there was enough space to feel safe.
There was tape throughout the store on the floor that was 2 metres apart but there were no signs to indicate that this is what it was for (it took me some time to work this out). There was no one way system in operation and customers were passing each other in the aisles and tracking back all the time. There was no click & collect service in evidence.
 was genuinely impressed with the store’s cleanliness, tidiness and stock availability.  It was an extremely easy place to shop and items were all easy to find as it seemed very logical and there was very good signs throughout.  Staff were plentiful and helpful and there was only one aisle (canned vegetables) where there were too many customers to feel comfortable.  The biggest problem with the store was the lack of information on the carparking system that did not appear to be working - probably taken out of action because of touch screens - and I had to be told by another customer not to bother with it.
I really enjoyed my shopping experience at Waitrose - I wouldn’t fault it in any way.
TOTAL SCORE (100) 79 68 81 84 86