Sainsburys Farlington ben taw

Source: David Streten Photography

Winner: Sainsbury’s Farlington, Portsmouth

Store manager: Ben Taw

Opened: 1992

Size: 46,000 sq ft

Market share: 6%

Nearest rivals: Tesco – 0.9 miles, Morrisons – 1.8 miles, Waitrose – 4 miles, Asda – 4.3 miles

Store data source: Analysis by CACI.

Call the market planning group on 020 7602 6000

How has the latest lockdown impacted customers’ shopping habits? There have been some pockets of panic buying, but nothing like we saw in March. Customers were bulk-buying a lot of toilet roll, pasta and tinned goods the first time around, but I think shoppers have now seen Sainsbury’s and our fellow retailers have the supply chain capacity to feed everyone. The first national lockdown also made weekdays busier days for us than the weekends, but customers have since reverted to mostly visiting us at the weekend. The virus has led to some changes in the store itself as well – our Argos store only offers a click & collect service right now, and the café will stay closed until at least January.

What plans are in place should outside queues build up as Christmas approaches? I had the queue running down the middle of the car park in the summer when the weather was great, but it currently goes down the side of the building where there is shelter should it rain – and we have umbrellas for customers if we need them. Our focus since Covid-19 hit has been trying to get customers in and out of the store as efficiently as possible to minimise those queues.

How much has SmartShop usage grown since the pandemic? Customers have massively bought into it. It’s had steady growth since March and we really make the effort to encourage customers to make use of it, because it minimises physical contact with staff and the need for others to touch customers’ shopping. Plus it saves time so they can get in and out of the shop quicker, which is great as people feel more exposed to Covid the longer they are away from their homes.

What has customer reaction been to Sainsbury’s closing its counters? A lot of the questions we’ve been getting, especially from older customers, are about why Sainsbury’s has chosen to close its counters while other supermarkets are expanding their offers. They understand why we’ve made the decision though – it’s in response to a decline in sales. The counters at my store, which closed in March, just weren’t used enough. I think it’s a generational thing as I’ve never shopped at them as there’s so much on offer on shelf. The employees impacted by them closing have been redistributed into other roles. How we’ll use the spaces taken up by the counters is still under review.

How do you ensure you meet e-commerce demand? Covid-19 has helped us step up to take on the likes of Amazon and adapt quickly to cater to customers’ needs. You have to be agile when it comes to making changes right now, so we doubled our online operation to ensure people can get their food, and that change wouldn’t have happened so quickly without coronavirus. We’ve also offered car park click & collect since before the pandemic began, and it really went into max mode in March as there were customers who couldn’t get a home delivery slot.