Steven Pollock Mgr Sainsburys Sprucefield by The Image Stu_0001

Source: The Image Studio Photographers

Winner: Sainsbury’s Sprucefield Park, Lisburn

Store manager: Steven Pollock

Opened: 2003

Size: 47,000 sq ft

Market share: 19.2%

Nearest rivals: Tesco – 2.7 miles, Lidl – 2.7 miles, Aldi – 2.7 miles, Asda – 8.6 miles

Store data source: Analysis by CACI.

Call the market planning group on 020 7602 6000

How was Christmas for you this year? It actually went really well. I can say that we had been really worried beforehand about how we would cope if there was a sudden spike in demand and we had to move to introducing queuing systems outside the store, particularly if it was cold and wet – but we didn’t have that in the end. The busiest day was 21 December as customers shopped early and then we were very steady the rest of the week. It was almost as if everyone had booked slots and we never had queues outside.

Did you notice shoppers buying differently? We had a big increase in customers shopping online and using SmartShop and there were definitely more people going for smaller turkeys and not going for the bigger birds. But overall, we still saw shoppers really filling up their trolleys. We did really well on BWS, with strong sales of high-end wines. I think people were really looking after themselves over Christmas. We are coming out of Christmas well.

How have you found maintaining strong Covid security standards? It’s the single most important thing we are doing right now and has been since the start of the crisis – and I can’t thank our staff enough for the way they have adopted the changes to the way we work to meet changing customer needs. It is something our shoppers have responded really well to and we are getting customers who didn’t shop here before the pandemic now coming in regularly and telling us it’s because they feel safer here than in other stores.

It’s been a brutal nine months for supermarket staff. How is morale? It’s been a huge challenge, but throughout it all, it has really brought the team here closer together than ever before. I’ve been really pleased to see how people from all our different teams have looked to help each other out across different departments, or offering to help out with covering shifts. We’ve also put in a quiet space in the store so staff can just go there if they are feeling stressed and need to relax or be on their own for a bit.

Are you seeing rates of staff absenteeism rising again? Not at the moment. We aren’t seeing levels above what we would normally have at this time of year with the post-Christmas period and normal winter illnesses.

Have you had any post-Brexit availability issues? We have been planning for Brexit for a long time and so as you’ve seen this week Sainsbury’s has tied up with local Spar wholesaler Henderson Group to source some products that might be more complicated bringing over from Great Britain. Hendersons are a really slick and successful operator and so we’ve been able to maintain strong availability while all this settles down. Customers are also responding well to some of the new local and Irish products that we are stocking as a result. There are 13 Sainsbury’s stores in Northern Ireland and we are all being kept well informed from head office of what is happening – we are definitely a high priority, which is great.