Tony Blake Photography (1)

Source: Tony Blake Photography

Iain Johns was talking to Lilith Foster-Collins

Store: Sainsbury’s Chester
Store manager: Iain Johns
Opened: 1983
Size: 39,392 sq ft
Market share: 15.79%
Population: 111,311
Grocery spend: £2,851,482.84
Spend by household: £57.46
Competitors: 31
Nearest rivals: Aldi 0.8 miles, Asda 2.6 miles, Co-op 0.6 miles, Iceland 1.5 miles, Lidl 2.6 miles, M&S 1.4 miles, Morrisons 2.3 miles, Sainsbury’s 1.4 miles, Tesco 1.5 miles, Waitrose 1.2 miles

Source: CACI. For more info visit Notes: Shopper profiling is measured using Grocery Acorn shopper segmentation. Store catchment data (market share, population, expenditure, spend by household, competition) is within a five-mile radius.
For CACI’s shopper segmentation of the other stores we visited this week see the online report at

How long have you been at Sainsbury’s? My career here started over 31 years ago, when I was a student working at the Chester store. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of travelling up and down various parts of the country and I’ve found myself coming back to manage the Chester branch.

How has the store changed since you first worked there? It’s been a pretty amazing journey for Chester. I feel really connected to my customers – I still see customers who I saw when I was a student. Everyone looks a little bit older and they might have children with them, or grandchildren. The store has evolved over the years, more recently with Argos going into the store. We have an Explore Learning centre for tutoring children, and we’ve also got a Timpson. Then we also have general merchandising and clothing, which was something that wasn’t here all those decades ago.

Can you tell us a bit more about the store? The store has been here long before a lot of the nearby housing estates and it really is the centre of the local community. We are just about to celebrate our 40th birthday.

Are there any customers interactions that stand out? I spend a lot of time talking to my customers because not only have I watched their journeys and shared in their happy times, and perhaps not so happy times, they have also seen my career grow and develop through this company, and the development of my own family. Sometimes I’ll be in here with my kids doing my own shopping and customers will often stop for a chat. It’s not just small talk – you get to know very personal elements of our customers lives and it’s a privilege to share that.

What’s the area like? Chester is a beautiful city. It’s relatively small but it’s one of the most complete walled cites in the country. We are around two miles out of the city centre in Great Boughton, a prosperous part of the town with a very close-knit local community.

How do you keep on top of availability? My team and I pride ourselves on checking every gap every day, and seeing if it’s something we can solve. We certainly get more gaps than we did a number of years ago. It’s really important that we use our merchandise and skills to help close those gaps. We have excellent availability across the dairy category and it’s unusual for us to have out of stocks in that category.

How much uptake have you had of the Nectar card after introducing Nectar Prices? Nectar Prices are a fantastic tool in our armoury – not just the general offers but also the targeted ones. It’s been really popular and I have really noticed that. It’s clear to see people are buying into the initiative.

Did you used to have a Lloyds Pharmacy in store? We did have a Lloyds. We were one of the first to lose that service. It was in a non-typical location in the store because of the age of the building. The pharmacy space was one of the first things you saw as you walk in, on your right-hand side and that space is now a vacant concession. It’s not an area we could use for shelving and it’s also within the HFSS arc. We are using the space to help advertise some of the other concessions while awaiting an exciting proposition to come along.