For the third in our 12-month series of mystery shopping visits across the UK, our team of researchers visited Bristol, in the South West of England, where Morrisons came out clearly on top.
The store scored particularly well on stock levels and product ranges within the store, as well as registering highly for the range on the aisle ends, cleanliness of the store – both inside and out – and for the helpfulness of its staff.
M&S came second, having scored well for its stock levels, range of aisle ends and cleanliness of store, but fallen down, in the opinion of our mystery shopper, on the effectiveness of its signage and promotions. Asda and Waitrose shared third place who scored highly on range of fresh produce.
Aldi scored better than either Tesco or Sainsbury’s in this month’s visits, with consistent scoring across the range of our criteria, with the exception of cleanliness outside of the store. The supermarkets that were rated the lowest were Co-op and Lidl. The areas in which Co-op scored particularly badly were effectiveness of promotions in both the fruit and vegetable sections, the number of gondolas and the appeal of signage, where Lidl was marked low for style of packaging and range of produce for both its fruit and vegetables.
The in-store messages and appeal of signage for fresh produce was rated most highly in Morrisons and Sainsbury’s during the mystery shop in Bristol. As we move through the months, we will begin to see regional differences, of course, and it is clear that although better than the stores in Leeds, this particular aspect of the Bristol stores was less appealing than in the stores in Cambridge.
The staff were rated as very helpful in all of the stores visited in Bristol, apart from Tesco and Asda.
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:
“Does the “organic” label on produce mean that it is pesticide-free? And if not, what type of pesticides do they use on organics?”
The member of staff at Tesco and Co-op needed to be prompted to look at the packaging of the organic produce. Asda categorically said “I don’t know” and gave no intention of offering any answers to the question. However, as you will see by clicking on the individual store names at the top left of this screen, staff at the remaining supermarkets were helpful and where they weren’t completely sure, they either asked a supervisor or accompanied us to the organic produce to check on the packaging.
* 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.