Sainsburys Heaton Russ Walker

Source: Never Ending Stories Photography

Store: Sainsbury’s Heaton

Store manager: Russ Walker

Opened: 2011

Size: 57,944  sq ft

Market share: 7%

Population: 586,079

Grocery spend: £13,733,833

Spend by household: £54

Competitors: 107

Nearest rivals: Aldi 1.6 miles, Asda 1.2 miles, Co-op 0.4 miles, Iceland 0.8 miles, Lidl 1.0 miles, M&S 1.2 miles, Morrisons 1.4 miles, Sainsbury’s 0.7 miles, Tesco 0.6 miles, Waitrose 1.1 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 our service & availability report


You’re no stranger to the Grocer 33 award. I’m in my 35th year at Sainsbury’s – I’ve worked 16 years in London and the rest of it in the north-east – and this is my fourth Grocer 33 win. I’ve only been at the Heaton branch six months now, but in all fairness I took over a great store.

What’s the secret to so many wins? For me it’s about having huge passion for what you do, for Sainsbury’s and for the industry. I also have a huge passion for people, and I know it’s a bit clichéd but ultimately my results are dependent on the people that work for me. So it’s really important that I engage and train them so they can deliver, and know exactly what Sainsbury’s stands for.

How are you finding transitioning to a new store? I now have a full online operation, which I didn’t have before. My last store was a very busy walk-in store, but in this one, almost 25% of the money we take comes from online. That’s been quite a change for me to understand and adapt to.

What does managing such a big online operation mean in practice? From a customer perspective, I really had to adapt how I approach availability because the online operation starts at 4am. When I come in for work, the shop is already being shopped – we’ve already taken 20-25% of our volume. So it’s then recovering the store to make the availability great for the walk-in customers. Having good inventory control is obviously key, but so is having a very agile replenishment operation that reacts very quickly to the sales of the popular lines and lines that are more seasonally driven.

Are you seeing an impact in availability from the war in Ukraine? We’re just starting to see some issues. We’ve had a real rush on cooking oil, so although Sainsbury’s has plenty of supplies we’ve got a degree of extra purchasing from customers. For now we’re just managing that on a daily basis and making sure we get the deliveries out as quickly as possible.

What else have you been working on? As part of our food first strategy we’ve just undergone a huge range overhaul, so two weeks ago we changed virtually the whole of the ambient food hall. We’ve put in huge additional ranges of what we call foods of the world, so we’ve just added around 600 new lines to the store. This is the precursor to getting the right ranges in ahead of the HFSS legislation. It wasn’t particularly about bringing in healthier products, but largely about catering for a much more diverse customer.

How else are you preparing for the HFSS changes? We got the plans yesterday for the store and we’ve got an absolutely mammoth task on our hands. It will mean a complete move-around of the shop floor, particularly in the front entrance, which will be the most affected. That will commence in the summer, and I am really looking forward to it. But again the secret for a successful delivery of that is engaging with the colleagues and explaining not just what’s changing but why it’s changing. If you make that story very compelling, you get the colleagues on your side to get all of that work done and be able to help the customer too.

How are you helping your shoppers navigate the current inflationary environment? We’re really focused on offering customers great value and we’ve invested massively in consistently lower prices and just trying to create that perception of value, whether that be through our Price Lock commitment or our Aldi Price Match initiative, which we promote very strongly. It’s really important that we bring those products alive with both colleagues and with customers through great advertising and great colleague engagement. It’s really important that, for example, the colleague working down the meat aisle knows which lines can offer the best value. We also often display our Price Lock lines on gondola ends and within seasonal displays.

Tell us about your plans for Mother’s Day. We’ve got the Mother’s Day displays that the mystery shopper saw, although they wouldn’t have seen the flower display yet as that doesn’t come in until later in the week. But we’ve got chocolates, flowers, Prosecco, and a huge range of Mother’s Day gifts like personalised mugs. And also for all the colleagues that are working this Sunday we will be giving them a gift just to show them appreciation for working on Mother’s Day.

What’s your most proud achievement of the past six months? Probably that I’ve quickly got 350 colleagues behind me, and that I’ve won the hearts and minds of those. I’m really proud of that. And also, as of last Friday morning we were the top fundraising store for Comic Relief, so we’re certainly going to be one of the top stores for fundraising and that figure will probably push towards £10,000. I’m very proud of that because that’s a huge effort by the colleagues for a great cause.