Scott Verlinden tesco southend

Source: Gary Derbridge

Winner: Tesco Extra, Southend-on-Sea

Lead manager: Scott Verlinden

Size: 73,000 sq ft

Opened: 1995

Market share: 21.8%

Nearest stores: Morrisons – 1 mile, Sainsbury’s – 1.1 miles, Waitrose – 1.5 miles, Asda – 1.6 miles

Store data source: Analysis by CACI.

Call the market planning group on 020 7602 6000

Tell us about you. I’ve been with Tesco for 20 years and as a lead manager for 18 months – I joined just as Covid started. It was a really challenging time for my career but an interesting one. I think because you were thrown into the deep end as such, you were speaking to everyone and having real collaboration with all the managers around the shop.

To what extent has Covid and the ‘pingdemic’ impacted your branch? We had one of the highest absence rates in the company because we’re a seaside town and the Covid rates are still high in the summer here. Last Christmas was very tough – we had about a quarter of the staff off. But the team are brilliant, we’ve done shift changes, extra hours, long days and we’ve all worked to keep the store running. [The ‘pingdemic’] has calmed down now, but two weeks ago it hit us hard. Now the Covid situation is becoming more stabilised, we’re finding a lot of general absence around some of the older members of staff having to have operations. That is the biggest absence issue we have so we’ve got a lot of temporary members of staff starting to cover these positions.

How have you approached both labour and supply shortages? The key thing was forward-planning and collaboration with the night team. We knew we were going to have distribution impact so we assembled teams in different areas of the shop so we could keep the customer shopping experience really good. For example, if we knew we were getting a fresh lorry turning up late, we would change all our shift patterns so we got the stock straight on the shelves. Hence why availability has remained really high through this pingdemic.

How have you kept the team motivated? It’s tough, and people are getting tired. If they’ve needed some time off, we’ve tried to accommodate that, and we’ve got sweets that we sometimes give out around the shop floor just to try and keep motivating people. We try not to overwork them and give them too many hours. It’s all about planning ahead.

Are staff still choosing to wear masks? I’d say about 60% are wearing masks, especially as it’s a crowded shop. It’s the third busiest shop in the company for walk-in sales, generally in the top 10. So they continue to wear their masks for the customers’ and their own safety.

Are there any new displays or campaigns at the branch? We’re launching today the fresh quality promise in every Tesco supermarket. That’s about highlighting the great-quality fresh food products we do in store. There’s hanging boards around and all the points of sale on each of the items to show the great quality we deliver. Back to School has also been getting shopped quite heavily now.

Is the store layout undergoing changes in the near future? The new charging stations for cars are coming soon to the front of the shop. We’re going to have the maximum number of bays, because we’re one of the largest Tesco supermarkets.