Waitrose wins supermarket sweep

Waitrose has topped a shoppers' list of best supermarkets for service. And Lidl and Aldi jumped the queue too...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
That’s according to an annual survey of 12,000 customers by Which?: Waitrose scored 85% for making shopping a ‘pleasurable experience’ - checking out in top spot for the second year in a row.

Good news then for John Lewis-owned Waitrose, as it plans to follow up its best ever Christmas by opening 39 new stores. Not so great for the Co-op, however, which came dead last with 46%. And the ‘Big Four’ supermarkets also fared surprisingly badly: Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco all came in lower than their budget rivals. Tesco, for example, may retain an extraordinary share of the nation’s spending, but it scored just 49% – compared with the 65% and 64% snagged by Aldi and Lidl respectively.

A sign of these straitened times, perhaps? In economic times like these, the theory is that it's often the high end and low end that tend to do well, while the bunch in the middle get squeezed. It's true that sales figures haven't necessarily shown that over the last couple of years; thanks to the Big Four's aggressive pricing, the likes of Aldi haven't made anything like the expected inroads.  

But, as this survey shows, service is a slightly different issue. Price is clearly one consideration; Aldi and Lidl scored five out of five for pricing, and while Waitrose only got three, Which? points out that its customers ‘clearly think it’s worth it’. And perhaps that gives us a clue as to why the Big Four did less well; devotees of waitrose at the higher end and Aldi/Lidl at the other end will often feel a loyalty or attachment to their supermarket that Big Four shoppers can't necessarily muster. So they're perhaps more likely to come out well in surveys like these.

Unfortunately, though, this doesn't seem to have done the poor old Co-op much good; the ethically-minded chain fared about as well as a shopper trying to get their head around a self-service checkout machine. Shoppers complained about the range and availability of its products, as well as its environment, its offers and value for money. The Co-op has been quick to blame the upheaval of integrating the Somerfield chain, which it acquired back in 2009. But it just goes to show: in today's tough retail environment, an ethical reputation will only get you so far.

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