Now that we are no longer running a shop we are visiting some of ‘the opposition’ for our needs. Because of their size the supermarkets give the impression that they are good at what they do. This has given me a new opportunity to check out if they are worthy of their reputation.

What are the things that customers are looking for from the shops they use? Convenience, range, availability, easy layout and efficient checkout to name a few. I want to report on a couple of stores that my wife and I have used several times recently, a big Sainsbury and a smaller Tesco.

Seasonality has its place in all retail businesses and as we move further into Autumn and change becomes necessary. Anyone selling fruit and vegetables will know that top sellers change with the seasons. The trick is to change the merchandising in a way the customers understand. One of the supermarket’s that we have visited have recently changed their display and for me have made a couple of doubtful remerchandising decisions.

First we found that their decision to display their lettuce significantly separated from the cucumbers and tomatoes bizarre. This has made salad selection difficult to say the least and is the sort of issue that could well be enough to push customers to a different store.

And then we struggled to find any bags to put loose produce in. These it appeared had been clustered in a couple of points in a large multiple-fixture display. Very odd.

Our other supermarket experience was at a large Surrey store that on two visits failed the checkout test. Two different times on two different days of the week there was significant queuing and closed tills. Both times there were staff out on the shop floor, but no one taking charge of the issue.

Hum, with at least 5 people with trolleys at each of the open tills the store was stealing a lot of customer time. Our wait time was over 8 minutes both days and that looked an average for the other queues. With my estimate of approaching 100 people waiting to pay I make that over 10 hours of customer time just in the time I was in the queue. An expensive uncosted part of supermarket shopping.

These issues illustrate to me that these multiple don’t get it right all the time, but by the number of customers using both of these stores the other customer choice factors may be coming in to play. I wonder where the tipping point is?