Waitrose Westfield

The post-festive period hangover seemed to extend well into January this year, as all of the stores we visited this week struggled with standards and availability.

In what is often a tricky transition from the razzmatazz of the Christmas period into more sober new year trading, scores were low across the board and there was little to choose between four of the five outlets we visited.

Waitrose’s store in Westfield shopping centre in west London came out on top with just 62 points, thanks to an enjoyable shopping experience overall.

The stars of the show were the staff, whom our shopper described as “well presented and extremely helpful”. Plenty were available on the shop floor and many were stocking shelves during her Saturday morning visit, though they did not seem to be causing any obstructions.

This may explain why there were no staff on the main checkouts, meaning our shopper was directed to the self-service tills.

The biggest issue, however, was availability: three items were out of stock and a further two items not stocked.

Availability was an even bigger issue at the second-placed Tesco store in the Rainham shopping centre in Gillingham. With six out-of-stocks, it received a score of zero for that category.

There was also a mistake made by the checkout operator, who scanned an item our shopper had asked to be left behind. Otherwise, customer service was strong and our shopper found the store “intuitive and easy to navigate”.

Morrisons in Swindon and Sainsbury’s in Newton Abbot tied in third place on 56 points.

Morrisons had the strongest availability of any retailer this week. There was just one out-of-stock, though five items were not sold at what was the smallest of the stores we visited.

Staff were helpful and well presented, and were always easy to find. However, our shopper became frustrated by the amount of restocking cages that were blocking access to the items he needed.

Over at Sainsbury’s, there were two out-of-stocks and one not-stocked item. Our shopper found the layout of both the car park and the store confusing. Inside she had to double back a number of times in search of different items.

Overall the store was in a state of disarray, with our shopper seeing “indications of a busy few days or maybe staff shortages”.

There were managers restocking shelves, cages and boxes in aisles ready to be unloaded, and empty crates and boxes on the floor. Elsewhere in the store the roof had sprung a leak, with water being caught in a bucket.

While just six points separated the top four stores, there was a big drop down to Asda in fifth place. Its Southampton store picked up just 38 points.

Again, availability was not good. The store had four out-of-stocks along with two not-stocked items.

Our shopper’s first impressions of the “exceptionally messy and untidy” store were also disappointing. She found shelves with items that didn’t belong on them and others with no stock at all. She also observed discarded packaging litter and food items strewn on the floor.

She observed “the staff seemed to be in bad moods” and none attempted to help when she was “clearly struggling to find an item”. However when she did approach staff, they proved helpful.

Overall, our shopper felt the store had declined since her previous visit a decade ago.