Waitrose homeware

Source: Mystery shopper

Waitrose picked up a comfortable win in this week’s Grocer 33 with 73 points. Its “ordered and tidy” store in Meanwood, Leeds, secured a strong availability score as no items were out of stock (though three of them were not stocked).

Customer service was also a highlight for our mystery shopper, who said she had “great staff encounters” and gave a particular nod to the “lovely”, helpful checkout assistant. Although she did have to queue for a bit as few tills were open, the store was generally quiet.

One downside was that the layout was “not intuitive” in places – for instance, some plant-based products were in a dedicated section, while others were situated next to their non-vegan counterparts.

There was a big gap between this week’s winner and second-placed Sainsbury’s, which scored 56 points. Our visitor said the retailer’s Crawley branch looked “a little worn and could do with a revamp”.

She also had to go well out of her way to find a staff member on two different occasions.

On the bright side, she noted the store had several “attractive” Veganuary-themed end-of-aisle displays.

Availability was also good: she managed to buy 31 items. But as with Waitrose, the store layout for vegan and vegetarian products was “not cohesive”.

Asda’s Gateshead Supercentre scored 52 points, following poor availability – in total, six of our 33 items were out of stock. The store was clean, but there were several gaps on shelves.

Our Asda shopper also pointed out the layout was confusing for vegan and vegetarian products, and that staff struggled to point her in the right direction most times.

Additionally, none of the colleagues she spoke to offered to take her to items she couldn’t find. However, those she asked to check for stock were happy to do so and promptly told her when the items were due for delivery. Checkout queues were  also well managed.

Last place saw a tie between Morrisons and Tesco, with both scoring 50 points. Morrisons’ Farnborough store was tidy and litter-free, but low availability affected most areas of the store and was most prominent in the fruit & veg section.

Four of our items were out of stock, while another four were not stocked. Plus, there was very little replenishing activity happening at the time of the shop on Friday evening and few colleagues on the shop floor, but those who were available were helpful and polite.

On the other hand, our visitor said the fresh food counters looked appealing and well stocked, and the attractive-looking store displays placed a big emphasis on Veganuary and healthy eating.

Tesco’s Neath Abbey branch struggled slightly less with availability (three of our items were out of stock and two were not stocked), but the store layout left our shopper “frustrated”. The store felt quite cramped in some areas, she said, due to free-standing displays causing disruption in some of the narrower aisles, creating lots of choke points.

The fruit & veg section was well managed, with at least two staff members replenishing it. But our visitor highlighted that the colleagues manning the meat counter were not properly following face covering guidance. Largely speaking, staff were well-presented, extremely polite and helpful.

Overall, the highlight of this store was that Easter products were already starting to crop up, with the display looking “very appealing”.