What’s been happening in the store recently? Fairtrade Fortnight has been very successful. We stock a huge range and the teas, coffees and sugars have sold very well. We also have Active Kids, which has been very popular. And Comic Relief has been a success. We have lots of activities going on this week; my deputy and I will be auctioned off to work in a department for the highest bidder, so we could end up on the night shift or behind the deli counter.
Has Tesco’s range of price cuts and the launch of its price guarantee had any effect on you? I think our customers come to us for quality not price. They expect great food at a fair price and that is what we deliver. We haven’t felt any impact from either Tesco or Asda’s guarantee promotions and our sales growth is good year-on-year. And we are having a new store built next to us in August with a fantastic non-food range which will be great for our performance in this area. It will be 66,000 sq ft, and hopefully we will all migrate to the new store.
You have a high number of students living close to the store. How do you cater for them? At the beginning of the year we see a lot of students coming in to set up their new flats, so we put a lot of pots and pans and that sort of item on promotion. The new store will be able to offer a much wider range of homeware. Also, if we can get the students into the Nectar card, that makes a big difference. Our trade probably fluctuates by 10% to 15% when the students come and go around their semesters.
What is the biggest challenge you have had recently? Other than the student fluctuation issue, keeping up with online demand is a big one. Online ordering is growing by about 30% year-on-year and trying to keep up with that pace is a real challenge. Last year we had three delivery vans, this year we have five. Once the new store is up and running and we open up more postcodes for delivery, the number of vans will go up to seven or eight.
How long have you been with Sainsbury’s and how has it changed since you started? I joined in 2004, which coincided with the arrival of Justin King. Since then I have noticed availability getting stronger every year, especially on fresh foods. We have a very clear and effective process for ensuring availability is as good as it can be. Each department does a daily walk around the store with a scanner to identify low stock, which then updates our systems. If it is in the store then it is on the shelf.