Each week we look at retailers in the same sector. This week two supermarkets with their roots in the north vie for superiority
Each week we look at two shops competing in the same sector, and review what they are offering customers: from how helpful the staff are to the best bargains on offer.
Our review will be based on a visit to stores on the same high street, or online, so it will be just a snapshot of how the retailer is performing.
To get a better idea of which retailers are delivering and which are falling short, we would like you to tell us about your experiences of the same shops.
Some weeks, both stores we visit may do a good job; other weeks there will be one that stands out as being much better or worse. Your reviews will help us discover if this is a trend.
This week, we compare supermarket giants Asda and Morrisons.
Background The Morrisons brand dates back to 1899, when William Morrison started working as an egg and butter merchant in Bradford. He expanded into market stalls in the local area and in 1958 Morrisons opened its first self-service shop in the city.
Business boomed under the control of William’s son Ken, and it purchased rival supermarket chain Safeway in 2004 in order to expand its presence in Scotland and the south of England. It currently has about 450 stores.
The visit 10.30am, 20 August, Stockton-on-Tees.
What it sells Groceries and homewares.
First impressions My eyes were immediately drawn to an amazing display of fresh fruit and vegetables on beds of ice at the front of the store, with cold mist sprays built into the shelves to keep the produce fresh. Around the edge of the store were counters serving fresh fish, meats, pastries and cakes, as well as a popular salad bar. There was a dedicated area for upmarket, yet competitively priced ready meals, while groceries took up most of the centre of the store and freezer aisles occupied the rear.
What were the staff like? Chatty. From the older woman at the deli counter to the young man at the tills, everyone seemed eager to have a natter.
Best bargain Four medium white baps for 32p.
What does it charge? Onions, £1.05 a kg; 1l bottle of Robinsons orange squash, £1; 400ml bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo, £4.99; PG Tips tea bags (pack of 80), £2.14; 530ml bottle of Fairy Liquid, £1.65 (or two for £2).
Where can I pay? There were 22 tills in the store, nine of which were manned. Customers also had the option of using one of the six self-service tills or a small kiosk selling newspapers and cigarettes near the entrance.
Is loyalty rewarded? No.
Lasting impressions An impressive experience. Although not a vast superstore, this branch of Morrisons contained a good selection of products and had an excellent range of special offers, both on the end of the aisles and dotted around the store. Outside of food, it also had a children’s clothing section as well as a small but solid range of household appliances and homewares.
Overall rating 8/10.
Background Founded in Leeds in 1949, Asda has since grown into a retailing behemoth. The chain operated predominantly in the north of England until an expansion programme in the early 1990s enhanced its reach. It was bought by American retailing giant Wal-Mart in 1999 and now operates about 300 UK superstores alongside a number of smaller convenience and non-food stores.
The visit 11.45am, 20 August, Stockton-on-Tees.
What it sells Groceries, clothing and homeware.
First impressions This two-level store offered a massive range of products in a bright, airy atmosphere. The mezzanine level contained a cafe, homewares and a large clothing section, while the ground floor contained a pharmacy, home electronics and a comprehensive range of groceries.
What were the staff like? The checkout staff were quick and pleasant, with plenty more stacking shelves and fielding customer queries.
Best bargain A pack of four standard tins of Heinz tomato soup for £2.
What does it charge? Onions, 90p a kg; 1l bottle of Robinsons orange squash, £1.39; 400ml bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo, £4.98; PG Tips tea bags (pack of 80), £2.14; 433ml bottle of Fairy Liquid, £1.25.
Where can I pay? There were 25 standard tills, of which 11 were manned, with a further eight self-service machines and a newspaper kiosk also available.
Is loyalty rewarded? No.
Lasting impressions Asda’s store was huge – perhaps too big – taking a considerable amount of time to walk around its two levels. But that allowed it to stock a vast range of products, all competitively priced against other major supermarkets – a point the in-store advertising made abundantly clear.
While it was busy, the store remained easy to navigate thanks to the wide aisles and good signposting on the lower level. Upstairs, Asda’s non-food selection was excellent, with a wide enough range of George clothing to fill a shop of its own.
Overall rating 7/10.
Adam’s verdict Asda contained numerous posters detailing how much cheaper they are than other supermarkets, which generally seemed to be the case, although several products were just a penny cheaper than Morrisons and the latter came out top when it came to its special offers.
Morrisons also outclassed Asda when it came to the range of fresh products on offer, from the impressive fruit and veg stands to the bakery and fish counter, where a dedicated fishmonger was on hand to give advice and prepare fish to order.
Outside of food, Asda’s range of clothing and electrical goods was comprehensive. This was an area where Morrisons was unable to match its rival, although a range of basic appliances and kids clothing added some variation to its store.
In the battle of the takeaway pizza retailers Domino was king, taking 46% of your votes. Rival Pizza Hut was the preferred choice of just 20% of voters, with the remainder saying they would choose another pizzeria entirely.
WelshPaul sang the praises of a good alternative near where he lives:
“Our local independent pizza takeaway offers a superb range of toppings: capers, spinach, smoked salmon, blue cheese, anchovies and parmesan to name but a few, and their prices are always at least 3/4 those of the local Dominos a few doors down. I’m baffled why so many people opt for the Americanised pizza giants, whose pizzas are often greasy montrosities (Cheese-stuffed crust? Really?).”
Slowmotion spoke up for Dominos’ customer service, if not the pizza:
“Domino’s online service is really good – you get to see how your pizza is progressing (“ah, they’ve just taken it out of the oven, maybe i should get out of bed now”), delivery is quick and the staff are really friendly. i actually detest the pizza with a passion but when you’re hungry and lazy it does a great job.”
Shuggah, meanwhile, liked the food:
“I would go Domino’s every time. They simply taste better. Pizza Hut also pretends to be a proper restaraunt serving nice food whereas Domino’s do not. Their large pepperoni passion is gloriously filthy, bad and wrong. It tastes amazing and only contains about two days worth of calories. Once a year for Domino’s, never for Pizza Hut.”
However, price was a recurring theme with many people saying they didn’t think either chain’s fare warranted the cost.
Let us know which of today’s retailers you favour, or if you aren’t a fan of either or think another offers better choice or prices.
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