Britain's Grocer of the Year

With Lidl announced as Britain's Grocer of the Year, I was interested to see that Sue Quinn a reporter from the Daily Telegraph decided to be a Supermarket spy and see if you can really get more for your money at Lidl. She set out with £30 to different supermarkets to see how the experience – and the prices – measured up and here is the outcome of her research.

Lidl now boasts a clutch of awards for its own-label products, as well as booming sales. But what’s so good about this upstart German supermarket chain that has transformed our perceptions of discount shopping? Are Lidl’s prices as low as its advertising suggests? Or is the quality of the products and shopping experience as low as the prices? Sue set out to find out how Lidl stacks up against some of its competitors.

At Lidl, she found several aisles were obstructed with large pallet trolleys as staff restacked shelves before the masses descended. She wasn’t in a hurry, which was just as well, as the layout of the store was completely random – she found kitchen rolls next to the portable generators and went round in circles trying to find everything on her shopping list. The fresh produce section was impressive, very cheap, with a wide choice of good quality fruit and vegetables, including exotic things like pomegranates, as well as an organic range. The bakery was also lovely, with warm bread and fresh pastries. There are also luxury items like Italian balsamic vinegars and fresh pistachios in self-serve tubs.
Although Sue found everything on her basic list, there was a distinct lack of choice – only one kind of extra virgin olive oil, for example – and doubted shoppers would find all that they needed for a comprehensive shop. She also wondered about the welfare standards of the very cheap meat and poultry, and the ethics of bargain-basement milk: at 89p for 4 pints, What are they paying dairy farmers? Sue found that service was friendly and helpful – staff knew where to find items that had her stumped – but there were only two checkouts open and quite long queues. Despite the mayhem, she reported that shopping was fun.

Value for money: 10/10
Shopping experience: 7/10
Quality of products: 7/10

At her local Tesco Extra Sue suffers the opposite problem: it’s too vast. Even though she knew the layout of this store well and the aisles were well organised, locating the right section, then sorting through all the options, took her time and patience. Do they really need so many aisles just for bread? On a tight budget, identifying the cheapest items would be a real challenge. However, recent improvements Tesco has made to its fresh produce section – the shelves have been opened up and lowered to make it possible to see across the aisles – are very welcome and making navigating easier. Sue visited in the late afternoon and it was busy, but there were plenty of trolleys, all the shelves were well stocked and the aisles were reasonably clear. In a store this size, the quality varies from cheap to luxury – so all budgets are covered. Sue found it was difficult to find a staff member to ask where to find something – much quicker just to wander around to locate it herself. But despite the fact the store was very busy, she didn’t have to queue for a self-serve till – so the whole shop was done without dealing with a staff member. You can’t argue with the choice and the value if you look hard for the bargains, but shopping is much simpler and more pleasant in a smaller supermarket.

Value for money: 9/10
Shopping experience: 7/10
Quality of products: 8/10

At Waitrose Sue could not deny the great shopping experience, at least on her recent visit. From the staff member in the car park who found her a trolley, the free coffee (for members), the staff who led her to items she couldn’t find rather than just pointing her in the right direction, and the checkout operator who refunded her parking even though she'd left her ticket in her car – Waitrose loves to love its customers. But it comes at a price. On Sue's shopping trip, even some items in the Essentials range were more expensive than like-for-like products at other supermarkets. It might only be a few pence here or there, but on a large shop, the difference adds up. However, there’s a bigger emphasis on quality. The cheapest pork sausages on offer at Waitrose for example cost £1.40 for 8 – and they looked decent enough – compared with the grim, nasty looking pack for 66p at Tesco. Sue loved that there are lots of specialty products available. And although there were plenty of staff on the shop floor, she had to queue at the checkout, regardless of the time of day. A happy shopping experience, but you pay for it.

Value for money: 7/10
Shopping experience: 9/10
Quality of products: 9/10


Popular Posts