Morrisons fruit veg fresh aisle

Source: Kyle Hassall Photography

We’re kicking off the new Grocer 33 year with an exceptional mystery shop. For the first time, we’ve pitted both our occasional guest retailers, Aldi and Lidl, against the usual traditional grocers to see how they deliver against the backdrop of inflation that’s seeing the discounters grow share.

You can read all about that in our pricing report. But what about service? The winner was Morrisons – which had only won ‘store of the week’ twice in the past six months – with 79 points, built around excellent availability at the Denton branch.

The food counters were also a highlight: neatly presented and well stocked. There were some eye-catching Father’s Day promotions too and the shop floor was clean, while the store’s logical layout made it easy to locate products and shop floor staff were friendly and helpful, as was the checkout assistant.

Morrisons was closely followed by Tesco and Sainsbury’s, tied on 78 points. At Tesco Newport, even though there was some restocking going on, the trolleys did not cause obstructions. Staff who were busy replenishing still went out of their way to help.

The branch was largely well stocked, though there were gaps, particularly in cooking oils and personal care. Three of our items were out of stock.

The end-of-aisle offers were attractive and the seasonal displays were enticing.

Sainsbury’s in Dorridge got top marks for standards. The store was well lit, aisles were wide and the shop floor clean and tidy, with shelves neat, organised and well stocked. Just one item was out of stock.

Staff were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The quiet checkout assistant did not make eye contact, but our shopper had a “pleasant experience”.

Waitrose’s Stamford branch came next with 71 points. This store only had one out-of-stock item. There were some gaps on shelves but staff were replenishing. There were plenty of smart displays and offers, though they weren’t necessarily “coherent or seasonal”. The food to go section also had a few gaps during the Sunday morning visit.

Aldi edged out rival discounter Lidl by two points, scoring 65. Its branch in Llansamlet left our shopper “pleasantly surprised” at how quickly they managed to find all items. It was the second supermarket this week with a perfect availability score. Promotional displays looked attractive, though some had become a “dumping ground” for unwanted items.

The store was very busy, making it difficult to navigate some of the narrower aisles, however. Still, the one shop floor assistant around was polite and efficient, while the checkout process was quick.

Meanwhile, the wide aisles of Lidl in Fazakerley, Liverpool, made for an easy-going shopping trip. There were several shop floor staff assistants, and their efficiency earned Lidl the top score for shop floor service.

However, poor availability affected the score. While some areas, like the bakery, were well-stocked and enticing, stock levels elsewhere were low, particularly in fresh produce. Four of the items on our shopping list were out of stock.

Lastly, a trip to Asda Parkgate Shirley underwhelmed. None of the promotional displays stood out, and the lack of overhead signage made it difficult to find some items. Availability generally was not great – though only one of our items was out of stock – with several gaps visible.

Staff were not particularly proactive when they saw customers approaching, as they were busy restocking and chatting. Asda earned 54 points.