At this time of goodwill to all men, it seems only fitting that this year's final top store award has been won primarily for great service.

Our shopper had nothing but praise for Waitrose in Blaby. She noted that staff were polite and efficient and that they went out of their way to guide her to the items she was looking for - despite the shop being extremely busy. Although queues were long, the staff were also quick to open extra tills when they noticed shoppers were waiting . This high service level, coupled with no out of stocks, made Waitrose a clear number one.

Sainsbury's in Chelmsford was the only other store that could boast no out of stocks, but let itself down on customer service.

When asked how to find an item, one staff member told our shopper which aisle it was in, but didn't offer to guide her to it. Other than that, our shopper was impressed with the store, particularly an expansion to the range following a recent store extension.

Availability was the Achilles' heel for Tesco and Asda, which had four and two items respectively out of stock. Both offered an otherwise good shop: our customers praised clean stores and helpful staff.

Morrisons lagged behind both on availability and service this week. Three of the 33 items were out of stock, and staff seemed unwilling to help our shopper. The toilets were broken, too.

Winner: Steve Ward, Store Manager, Waitrose, Blaby

What's selling particularly well in the run-up to Christmas?

Our Christmas cakes have seen double-digit growth and Champagne sales are going really well thanks to a few big offers. We've been working hard to make sure we have the right offer on some key lines. But wholesome winter food is also trading well at the moment.

Are there any stand-out ranges you're particularly pleased with?

Our offer of 'forgotten cuts' of meat has been very well received, and we're now using the whole carcase. It's had good press and several TV chefs are using them as ingredients. Our customers have been really intrigued by the products.

Have you noticed any consumer trends recently? What have you done to take advantage?

There's a definite shift away from ready meals towards scratch cooking. We've got a new range of ingredients to complement our fresh food offer. People with the time to cook are increasingly confident and willing to take the time to do it.

What do you do to keep the shelves stocked at such a busy time of year?

Our stock-ordering system can use historical data from previous years to help take account of seasonal events and buying patterns, which is a big help. The important thing is keeping the flexibility to respond to changes in the weather, or promotional drives.

What are the main challenges?

We serve an unusual community, with lots of independent stores on our local high street. That makes service even more important for us than other branches. We've been here for 38 years, and one of our partners has worked here the whole time. We have real long-term relationships with our customers as a result.

Do you and your staff socialise outside work?

Frequently! We had our Christmas night out last week, and there's another dinner tomorrow. A branch of John Lewis has just opened in Leicestershire, and we're planning some joint social events with them.

What's next for your store?

We're looking to introduce online shopping, through Waitrose Deliver, in the new year. We'll be having a site survey in the next month or so. This is a vast opportunity to expand our customer offer.