Karen Sullivan sainsburys newquay

Source: PipMedia Ltd

Winner: Sainsbury’s Newquay

Store manager: Karen Sullivan

Opened: 2009

Size: 22,000 sq ft

Market share: 19.7%

Nearest rivals: Aldi - 0.9 miles, Asda - 1 mile, Morrisons - 2.5 miles, Lidl - 2.5 miles

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

How long have you been in retail and how does the past month compare? Since I graduated in 1996 when I joined Sainsbury’s. In retail we are used to landing change consistently and quite quickly as trends come and go and you react to different challenges. However, normally you have time to assess an upcoming change and digest how to tackle it, but since panic-buying started followed by the lockdown we have been dealing with large-scale changes in a matter of days, and sometimes within a couple of hours.

How has the experience in store developed this week as stock levels improved and customers get used to the new normal? It has definitely been calmer - and fuller shelves have helped with that as customers can have confidence they can get what they need.

Did being in a holiday hotspot affect trade over Easter? It was not like any Easter weekend we’ve experienced before. Usually we would have lots of tourists and holiday-makers, but this year it was restricted to the local community. The hot weather over the weekend also drove shopping for BBQ products, such as burgers and charcoal, but customers were also buying traditional Easter lines of meat joints and vegetables for roast dinner. People seem to have taken heed of the government advice around essential travel, which means Newquay was much quieter over Easter than normal. Normally there would be people everywhere, on the beaches, in the town, on the roads, but it definitely quieter, which is expected if people are following guidelines.

Has queueing outside the store been an issue or are customers shopping strategically across the day? Shoppers seem to be getting better at arriving at different times throughout the day. Generally, the mornings are still the busiest time, but customers do seem to be spreading out across the day more. We haven’t had any problems with customers accepting the social distancing policies, such as limiting numbers in store - there is an understanding there may be a wait to get in stores to ensure everyone can shop safely.

Availability seems to be improving every week, with restrictions lifted across more lines. Are we approaching normal levels of stock? There are still areas - home baking, tinned goods, some cleaning products - taking a bit longer to return to normal levels, but previous problem categories such as pasta are now less of a problem. We have fewer lines but a larger volume of those lines as production was simplified and scaled up, meaning there is plenty of pasta available now. I look around my shop every day and I would say it is, more or less, back to normal.

How has that been managed? From a store perspective, the deliveries have been coming in everyday and going straight out on the shelves. Every single case we have had through the building, the philosophy has been ‘if it is out the back it is on the shelf’. That has been the driving force to get stock levels back up to what customers are used to.

Shop floor service scores have been consistently high during the pandemic despite the big challenges. Do staff feel appreciated by the company and customers? The way my team have approached the situation has been completely overwhelming and very humbling because it is a challenge for everybody, but they have all worked so well together. Employees jumping in to help and stepping up in areas they wouldn’t normally be expected to - they have been absolutely fantastic, and I couldn’t ask any more of them. They work so well together as a team and it is nice the customers do seem to appreciate that fact. We have been able to take on more staff, which is a help to the local community as well. I couldn’t praise this team highly enough.

Has staff sickness presented a problem or seen a spike? It has been pretty consistent throughout the outbreak. Taking on new staff has smoothed out any potential issues, but it has been at much the same level throughout the lockdown.