Tesco Irlam -2

John McEwan was talking to Stephen Jones

Store manager: John McEwan
Store: Tesco, Irlam, Manchester
Opened: 2001
Size: 55,000 sq ft
Market share: 7.6%
Population: 163,156
Grocery spend: £33,357,281
Spend by household: £480.29
Competitors: 46
Nearest rivals: Aldi 2.9 miles, Asda 3.5 miles, Co-op 1.4 miles, Iceland 2.9 miles, Lidl 0.1 miles, M&S 3.5 miles, Morrisons 4.7 miles, Sainsbury’s 1.5 miles, Tesco 0.9 miles, Waitrose 3.4 miles

Source: CACI. For more info visit www.caci.co.uk/contact. Notes: Shopper profiling is measured using Grocery Acorn shopper segmentation. Store catchment data (market share, population, expenditure, spend by household, competition) is within a five-mile radius. For CACI’s shopper segmentation of the other stores we visited this week see the online report at www.thegrocer.co.uk/stores/the-grocer-33

You’re set to retire soon, what a way to go out: I’m set to retire in three weeks after 34 years at Tesco. I joined as a butcher, then became bakery manager for three years. After that I progressed to senior team and spent five years on night shift as out of hours manager. I’ve worked in the Manchester area for most of that time, including in most of the stores. My decision to retire is to spend as much time with my family as I can before my daughters head off to university.

How would you describe the Irlam store? It is quite a large Extra store, with 270 colleagues. That includes nine team leaders, and an additional four shift leads on top of that. We’re on an industrial estate so there are a lot of factories and work units around. That drives a lot of footfall and we sell a lot of meal deals – our Yo Sushi counter also does well as a result. Saying that, in Irlam we are the destination shop for most people. We’ve got a large clothing section, phone shop, pharmacy, and quite a big non-food range selling everything from pots and pans to microwaves. We have 10 delivery vans that go out at all times of the day. Our dotcom operation is big and in good growth. Recently I’m noticing customers are doing larger shops now, ordering more items than they did before.

What is driving those bigger online baskets? The service customers get from drivers at the doorstep is great. But importantly, the range is great – we’ve got lots they can choose from. If they can get great availability online, they will keep using the service. In the year I’ve been here we’ve worked really hard on availability, both in store and dotcom. We’re producing some great figures, we’ve been able to grow the business, increase customers and grow our sales.

What has that availability work focused on? Mainly on stock routines. Making sure every gap scan is complete and every count is done so stock records can be absolutely accurate. It’s been business-wide, but last year, we removed our old deli counters in store and replaced them with a warehouse on the shop floor. It’s improved productivity as it’s much quicker to replace items and to be able to fill, compared to when the grocery warehouse was located at the back of the store.

Our shopper noted high service levels in store, you got top marks: We’re one of the Tesco stores to operate a night to days model, so we don’t have a night shift. We fill fresh food predominantly in the mornings and fill grocery non-food into the evenings. It means we have more colleagues on the shop floor to serve customers.

Our shopper noted lots of cages in aisles, how do you stop them being an obstruction? We have cage locations around the store, which are in fixture. But, as a team we’ve got to be really good at marshalling any cages that are on the shop floor, and making sure aisles are tidy.

Are you prepared for summer and Euros 2024? We’re quite well ahead of the summer push. We launched a full grocery seasonal gardening event last week. It covers everything from garden seeds and weed killer to fencing paint. It always does well this time of year. You get ready for the Euros by making sure you’ve got good displays, predominantly of beer.

How are you preparing for retirement? My replacement has been in store a couple of days a week. He’s running his own store but will join me at the start of my last week, and I’ll hand over to him then. My priority is to deliver a great shopping trip for customers, and to ensure the handover is as good as I can give him.

Looking back, what’s your advice for a successful career in retail? Be resilient. Come in every day wanting to do the best job you can. Go out of your way for colleagues and make whatever store they’re in a great place for them to work.