For the fifth in the series of our 12-month long mystery shopping project, Coventry, in Warwickshire, was the chosen destination.
Morrisons came out clearly on top for the third month running and fourth out of five. Again, the store scored particularly well on stock levels, the attractiveness of its displays and the range of fresh produce for both fruit and vegetables. However, on the downside, on this occasion, the Morrisons staff were uncommunicative and did not offer to find out more information on our monthly question – whether avocados are in fact fattening.
Asda and Waitrose were close behind Morrisons this month; the Asda and Waitrose staff members were helpful and Waitrose had a particularly well stocked and attractive vegetable display, although its fruit scored less well.
The Co-op scored worst of all, but it should be noted that in travelling to major cities our mystery shoppers are coming to the conclusion that so many of the Co-op stores are little more than small convenience stores, so it is very difficult to make a like-for-like comparison with other major grocery chains. Once we have completed the 12-month programme, we will review how the Co-op data is presented, as this ties in with its own stated aim of being a convenience retailer making planned improvements to the fresh produce range.
Sainsburys and M&S recorded high scores for cleanliness of the store, both inside and out and for the helpfulness of their staff although their displays were not so highly rated in Coventry. Aldi, Lidl and Sainsburys were given low scores for the effectiveness of their promotions and had very few gondolas promoting fresh produce.
As part of the mystery shopping research, England Marketing asks a different question of the fresh produce aisle staff each month. The question this month was:
“I like avocados but I am told they are fattening – are they?”
Most of the staff asked were helpful with comments which seemed sensible and highlighted the health benefits of the avocados. Only the staff member at Morrisons was not prepared to comment.
Cumulative Findings to Date
This month, after five sessions of mystery shopping, we have produced some cumulative results. These are best illustrated through the following series of charts which compare the cumulative scores by store:-
Vegetable and Fruit Displays
Morrisons is, so far, the best performer, achieving a slightly higher score than Waitrose and M&S on all aspects of its fruit and vegetable displays, although the M&S range is less highly scored than the other retailers, which is not altogether surprising.
Promotion of Fresh Produce
In terms of promotion of fresh produce, Morrisons is consistently displaying a larger range on aisle ends and has a greater number of gondolas displaying fresh fruit and vegetables than the other retailers
Within the stores, the appeal of signage, in-store messaging and the extent to which fresh produce stands out is high in Morrisons, and Waitrose also achieves a good score on both aspects measured. In terms of cleanliness, Waitrose, M&S, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s all score well. Staff were consistently most helpful in Waitrose and M&S.
* We commissioned England Marketing to undertake a rolling programme of in-store mystery shopping visits across the top nine UK food retailers; Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose, Co-op, Aldi and Lidl.
The mystery shopping cycle will feature a visit to one store in each chain, in a different region each month, as the research team both gathers first-hand insight on the presentation of the fresh produce in-store and also tests the knowledge of the staff working in the fresh produce aisles with topical and reasonably straightforward questions.
In doing so, we hope to highlight best practice and also pinpoint areas of weakness. If this information is used effectively, then we will be going some way towards achieving our objective as a publication – to make the fresh produce industry more robust and improve the industry’s sales.
Whilst we understand that rating the appearance of a supermarket aisle can be subjective, England Marketing will be carrying out all of this research and has been tasked to introduce as much science as possible into the process. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is the lowest mark and 5 the highest, the researchers visiting the stores are fully briefed on the scales for data collection and have been given detailed descriptors for each score.