Tony Blake Photography

Source: Tony Blake Photography

Displays at the winning Sainsbury’s store were tidy and well-stocked

In the first week of the new Grocer 33 year, Sainsbury’s took the lead on service and availability.

The Chester store scored 79 points overall, with full marks on shop floor service.

Our mystery shopper highlighted a member of staff who was friendly and helpful, “cheerfully” checking a handheld scanner to find out whether the Munch Bunch yoghurts were in stock. He was smartly dressed with a name badge, shirt, tie and jumper.

Checkout was speedy with a wait of no longer than a minute. Our shopper had a chat with the checkout assistant and was out of the store within minutes. Availability was also good: only the yoghurts were out of stock.

The only downside was our shopper felt the store was a little dimly lit, but the layout was intuitive and items were easy to find.

Having won on service last year, Waitrose made a solid start to the new year in second place this week. The Southend-on-Sea branch scored 72 points.

The store had a large car park with a clear entrance and our shopper was impressed by the attractive promotional displays, including summer BBQ and garden ranges.

The checkout experience was excellent – the store was not overly busy and our shopper did not have to wait. The checkout assistant was pleasant and didn’t rush our shopper with their packing.

Waitrose struggled with availability last year, however, and this week was no different: three items were out of stock and two not stocked.

There was a big gap between Waitrose and third-placed Asda Gateshead this week, which scored just 39 points.

First impressions were poor due to the car park. The trolleys were badly organised, litter was floating around, including plastic carrier bags, and there was no clear signage.

The “run-down” store entrance had a cramped layout and dingy lighting.

Availability was also poor. There were many empty shelves, especially in bakery and fresh fruit. From our shopper’s list, two items were out of stock and six not stocked.

To make matters worse, staff were unhelpful when asked about these items.

Someone had dropped a bottle, which was being cleared up, but slowly. “One staff member was just kicking the glass with her foot,” our shopper said.

The checkout experience was the shop’s saving grace. The assistant was pleasant and efficient, and there was no queue.

Next up was Morrisons High Wycombe with 34 points. There were no trolleys available outside the store and our shopper had to go back across the car park to find one. The first had a wonky wheel.

The store was quite cluttered and overwhelming, and the fresh fish area was “smelly”.

On the plus side, there was a good selection of fruit & veg and an interesting cheese and picnic food section. However, five items were out of stock including the falafel, which our shopper could not find – and staff were unhelpful when asked.

Last place went to Tesco Purley in London with 25 points.

The “cold and unwelcoming” store was “chaotic”, with unmanned trolleys left in aisles and messy produce. Displays were untidy, and the cakes and jellies section was the only presentable area.

Despite the busy store, only four checkouts were manned, and our shopper had to wait about five minutes. The till area was also messy.

Five items were out of stock and one not stocked.