Sainsburys Graeme Phoenix

Source: Samuel Barnard Photography

Winner: Sainsbury’s Keighley

Store manager: Graeme Phoenix

Size: 73,693 sq ft

Opened: 1984

Market share: 17.7%

Nearest stores: Asda – 0.1 miles, Aldi – 0.2 miles, Morrisons – 0.3 miles, Tesco – 2.2 miles

Store data source: Analysis by CACI. Call the market planning group on 020 7602 6000

Our mystery shopper noted the relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. Is that by chance or by design? We try to allow colleagues to be themselves and ensure that human element for customers. That’s something Sainsbury’s has encouraged – there’s been a bit of culture change in that respect over the last few years. It’s understanding colleagues are at their best when they’re allowed to be themselves, rather than us being too prescriptive with what we’d like them to say and do.

There’s been a lot of recruitment across the sector due to the pandemic. How have you maintained that culture? It’s about giving new starters the time to understand the role, and spend time with the manager and colleagues to understand what our expectations are. A long time ago there was more of a ‘sink or swim’ approach – it’s not the right thing to do. They’ve got to be welcomed to the family, an arm put around them until they can stand on their own two feet. You can’t expect people to just come in and know exactly what to do without that coaching.

How are you coping with supply chain pressures at the moment? It’s been a struggle for retailers all around the country. It’s not so much the supply, but never knowing ultimately when deliveries might turn up. While they’re planned for a certain time, you need to be able to react in the right way when they do come, and make decisions so it minimally impacts customers coming into the store. Quick, sound decisions. But that’s what you get put in the position to do, to make those tough decisions.

“It’s going to be a very different Christmas. People couldn’t celebrate in the way they wanted last year, so what’s that going to look like this year?”

Have there been any changes to store layout? The deli and meat counters have been taken out and we’ve extended our ambient offer, going after the big pack proposition that some larger Sainsbury’s have. We’re also starting to open up our world foods category, which is really popular at the moment. There’s a real opportunity here – there’s an Asian demographic around the store, and we are possibly missing a trick in winning those customers because we don’t sell everything they would want.

Do you get support to make changes like that? You pick up the phone to them [head office], do a walk and talk and share figures and make sound decisions. In my previous role in Ripon, we didn’t have a Polish proposition and I felt it was something missing. We took some space from offers and secondary locations and put in a dedicated section. It was difficult to keep shelves stocked, it was so popular! The turnaround time was four weeks from the call. The support is there.

What’s the expectation for Christmas? There’s no normal any more. The patterns we’ve seen historically are now very different – it’s going to be a very different Christmas. People couldn’t celebrate in the way they wanted to last year, so what that’s going to look like this year – the biggest ever? But there’s still a nervousness around travel and having bigger gatherings. We’ve got to be switched on and react to whatever happens, making sure contingencies are in place.