Waitrose flowers aisle

Source: Natasha Wiening

Waitrose Gerrards Cross registered the best availability score this week

With 79 points, this week’s Grocer 33 winner was Waitrose Gerrards Cross. According to our mystery shopper, this was a “nice, clean and safe space” to shop. Even though this was a small store that didn’t carry a huge range, it had the best availability score – no out-of-stocks and three not-stocked items. The produce section and food counters were all well stocked. Staff were plentiful, friendly and helpful.

The only downsides were that the frozen section was extremely small, and the car park required pay and display, which could be refunded at the till. But our shopper said they would return to this branch.

Sainsbury’s Whitchurch took the second place with 72 points. Our visitor described it as a “very pleasing store” – the lighting was bright, the aisles were wide, and the shelves were largely well stocked and attractive.

The branch scored top marks for shop floor service, as all staff were polite, knowledgeable and “obliging”. Some were busy replenishing, and while there were two restocking trolleys in sight, they did not obstruct customers.

Our shopper also liked that there was a colleague encouraging people to use scan as you shop and answering questions.

However, Sainsbury’s lost points to Waitrose due to lower availability, as two of our items were out of stock and one was not stocked. Additionally, there were not many enticing end-of-aisle promotions.

Up next was Tesco’s Exmouth Superstore, with 66 points. This store was undergoing some heavy replenishing at the time of our shopper’s visit on Sunday morning. But the aisles were wide, which allowed staff to restock without blocking customers’ way. The end of aisle displays caused “a bit of a bottleneck” as customers tried to navigate around them.

Shop floor staff were always nearby and ready to help. And even though this store did not fare that well on the availability score (with four out-of-stocks), our visitor noted there weren’t many gaps visible throughout and alternatives always seemed to be available. Overall, it was “an enjoyable shop”.

Morrisons scored 65 points. Its branch in Victory Retail Park, Portsmouth, gave our shopper mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was generally very well stocked (the “abundant and inviting” fruit & veg section was the best they had seen “in any store for a long time”). Only one of our items was out of stock and two were not stocked.

On the other hand, this was a large store with wide aisles and plenty of “unused” space that our shopper felt could have been used better. Upon entry, there were some displays with impulse buys from chocolates to beer. But the largely unused front-of-store space made it look bare. That being said, our shopper received good enough service to shop there again.

Asda’s Shore Road superstore in Belfast came last. This branch had a few good things going – fruit & veg had some eye-catching offers, there were lots of highlighted promos throughout the store, and the layout flowed well. Staff were very present and easily approachable with a polite manner. A specific nod was given to one of the cashier assistants whose interactions with customers were extremely “happy and refreshing”.

But even though stock levels were generally good, there were lots of items on our list that our shopper couldn’t buy as they were out of stock. This meant Asda scored zero for availability, which clearly affected its overall score of 58.