Waitrose newark leigh ford

Source: Vanguard Photography

Store: Waitrose Newark

Store manager: Leigh Ford

Opened: 1997

Size: 27,500 sq ft

Market share: 13%

Nearest rivals: Morrisons - 0.3 miles, Asda - 0.6 miles, Sainsbury’s - 2.6 miles

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

How is it in store this week compared with recent weeks? It is still busy, but it is much calmer as customers and staff have adjusted to the new normal. Shoppers seem to have calmed down and everyone has accepted these are very strange and unprecedented times. I’ve witnessed people showing a lot more care and consideration of each other, especially considering we are in the extraordinary circumstances of customers having to queue in a car park to get into a supermarket.

What has the queueing outside and people working from home during lockdown done to the shopping experience? The pattern of trade has changed significantly. Whereas we were peaking at weekends, there has most certainly been a shift and we are seeing seven flatter days throughout the week as people adjust shopping patterns, especially as people are working at home, they are coming out shopping in search of quieter times when they can.

How is availability looking now demand has eased? We are definitely on the road to recovery but there are still some gaps in several of the categories that were heavily shopped such as paperware, pasta, canned veg and soups. We are just trying to catch up and reassure customers the product is in the supply chain, it is just the capability and flex to bring in the volume needed to get the branch back onto a better footing in terms of full availability. In terms of distribution, we have seen Christmas volumes but without the preparation, which no supply chain in the world can deal with. To get the right level of stock back in is going to take another six to eight weeks because of distribution capacity. Deliveries are arriving every day and distribution has been superb, with additional deliveries. There just isn’t the cage and lorry capacity to deliver both the product needed to fill daily demand and also catch up to replenish the branch.

Has operating a store pick model for online hampered the operation? It has been fantastic. We are one of the largest dotcom branches in the estate. We’ve seen unprecedented levels of interest and demand on the service. We have been set up for it, so we have actively grown our capacity over the past few months to support the future potential growth expected when the Ocado deal ends in September. And, while the circumstances are far from ideal, this has been the ultimate test of our ability to stand on our own two feet. It has allowed us to have some insight into what the future could look like. And we can now build on any lessons learned to make September onwards as smooth as possible.

How are staff coping with the extra pressure? I’m absolutely blessed with a fantastic team of partners. And as challenging and extreme as this scenario and trade has been over the past month, everyone has just stepped up and given their absolute all. It has been a joy to lead. There is an acceptance and understanding these are unprecedented times and I don’t think we can underplay that. Everyone copes at Christmas because they all up their game, and that is what we have seen over the past few weeks. Everyone is looking out and caring for each other.

Has sickness been a factor, either through self-isolation or illness? We have a number of partners either self-isolated because of symptoms or family are showing symptoms and others off for extended period because they have underlying health conditions. Where we have benefited is in the John Lewis Partnership coming together. We have had superb support from John Lewis. The collaborative approach of the two brands has given Waitrose support in a way that hasn’t happened before. And the new management structure bringing the brands together has set the business up for future success. We were two brands under one heading - and we still are - but there wasn’t an awful lot of cross-working practices. All of that has gone now, making for a stronger business.

Has new chairman Sharon White been a strong presence during this crisis? Communication from the executive has been the best it has ever been, by far. Activity that wasn’t essential has been paused to allow the business to focus on what is important right now, which is the safety of partners and customers. Communication has been sleek, swift and exactly what was needed. Sharon has come across incredibly well. If there were any doubters, there most certainly won’t be after this period. She has excelled and inspired us individual leaders with our own leadership.

WEEK 41: Friday 3rd April 2020, 9am-12pm    WINNER
Service & Availability  Asda Morrisons Sainsbury’s Tesco Waitrose 
  Croydon Chorlton Solihull  Pontypool Newark
Car park score (out of 10) 6 6 6 7 7
Store standards (out of 20) 16 16 16 19 17
Store layout (out of 10) 6 4 6 8 10
Shop Floor Service (out of20) 16 18 17 14 16
Tills and checkouts (out of 20) 18 16 14 12 16
Availability score (out of 20) 13 7 6 8 18
TOTAL SCORE (100) 75 67 65 68 84
Out of stock/not stocked 3/1 5/3 7/0 5/2 1/0
Availability % 90.6 83.3 78.8 83.9 97.0