Sainsbury’s Fosse Park in-store bakery in Leicester is a shining example of how chief executive Justin King’s focus on increasing availability is producing results. Its success in this area is also one of the reasons why it took home the In-Store Bakery of the Year award at the Baking Industry Awards 2010.

In-store bakery manager Nick Grumbley joined Sainsbury’s in 1988, starting as a trainee in Coventry, before moving up the ranks to become team leader, assistant bakery manager and subsequently bakery manager. He has been at the Fosse Park store for seven years. "We now have around 25 staff, a mixture of full- and part-time, which includes the bought-in bread and cake side," says Grumbley.

The bought-in side was previously headed up by the grocery managers, but now it all comes under the bakery department. "It’s more beneficial this way, as what happens within the bought-in side of things can affect sales of the in-store bakery products," says Grumbley. "My shifts are varied, so I can monitor every part of the business, and see where we can improve," he adds. "We’re always trying to raise the bar on performance on a daily basis, so that quality, cleanliness and freshness are always improving."

Move to multi-skills

The bakery also has two apprentices, both of whom are due to attend a five-day training course in January for bakers at Sainsbury’s new bakery college in Wellingborough. Grumbley says his vision going forward is to multi-skill the colleagues who work within bought-in bread and cake, so they can carry out certain tasks within the in-store bakery as well. "The more multi-skilled people we’ve got, the easier and more enjoyable the job will be. People within the bought-in sector can be quite static within their role, putting out bread all day, but if you give them a different task or challenge, nine times out of 10, they’ll embrace it."

He describes his leadership style as fair, but says the business environment requires him to be quite demanding. He doesn’t pretend that it’s not hard work, but says the satisfaction you get when you see the goods your colleagues have produced, on display, makes it worthwhile. Mark Stirk, Sainsbury’s regional bakery coach, adds: "Nick is a great coach; he’s very keen to develop his colleagues, by up-skilling them and giving them the knowledge that not only encourages them to move forward, but excites them about what they’re doing."

With competition from other retailers, such as Asda and M&S, only a stone’s throw away, Grumbley says it’s essential that customers can find the products they want in his store. He admits that availability is an issue the supermarket struggled with in the past, but that CEO Justin King has been hot on improving. "When I first joined Fosse Park, the customers didn’t have the confidence in the bakery that they’d get the product they wanted at 7pm on a Friday evening," says Grumbley. "Now, I’d like to think that they have."

In the run-up to the awards, the Fosse Park store managed to pass the retailer’s Mystery Availability Check an internal target 68 weeks in a row. The check is carried out in every Sainsbury’s store on a weekly basis. Around 7,000 items are chosen of which 55 lines are from the in-store bakery and mystery shoppers are sent to all stores to check the availability of around 100 items each.

The bakery benchmarks it products against its rivals every four weeks, as well as comparing like-for-like sales with other Sainsbury’s stores in the region. As Fosse Park is the largest store in the area, if it isn’t matching another store’s sales, it will try to establish why and how, says Grumbley, by analysing, for example, how much of that particular product they are making and what the sell-out times are. Obviously, some lines sell better depending on the area the store is in for example, if it has a large student population but it’s good to be able to look at specific products and how it compared sales-wise, he says. "It’s motivating and helps drive improvement."

The in-store bakery sells approximately 190 lines. The range comprises around 80% scratch products, including rolls, breads, doughnuts, and 20% bake-off, including cookies, Danish and organic breads. Stirk says that all the new initiatives within Sainsbury’s in-store bakeries are for scratch production. "We’re using 100% British flour now, which is a great message to consumers, and we’ve really underpinned that with new Taste the Difference (TTD) Oats and Barley and Multiseed loaves, which are made from scratch and are selling really well," he says. "We see the scratch side of the bakery production as a huge opportunity. It’s what our customers tell us they want, and it’s our point of difference against the other retailers."

Although he doesn’t make the decisions when it comes to what products the ISB offers, Grumbley says his team is encouraged to give feedback to Stirk, before, during and after a launch. We have regional bakery managers’ meetings as well, says Grumbley. "In addition to discussing how certain products are doing, we get some great best-practice advice from other managers."

New TTD bakery products

Sainsbury’s relaunched its entire TTD range this autumn, which included a number of new bakery products. "Years ago, it was all about white sliced breads, but customers’ dietary habits have changed dramatically," he explains. "Free-from, extra fibre, seeded and speciality breads are now much more popular." Its new TTD Multiseed loaf is already one of its top-sellers, and its Stilton & Cranberry loaf is also very popular, he says. And it’s not just speciality breads that have been doing well, Grumbley says the bakery has seen cream cake sales go through the roof. Its patisserie counter has an ongoing three-for-two offer available; this, combined with better interaction with customers through a more hands-on approach, has driven sales, he says.

The Fosse Park in-store bakery underwent a refit in November 2009, with the size of customer-facing area increased by 30-35%. Commenting on the patisserie counter, Grumbley says: "There’s now a lot more choice, we’ve got different flavours, it looks cleaner and fresher and is really appealing to the eye. We’ve just had a range review on the bought in creams as well, and we’ve got some new packaging and designs that are selling really well." Its TTD cookie and muffin lines are also showing great sales growth, adds Stirk.

Grumbley is rightly proud of his store’s win. Within the production area there is ’wall of fame’, featuring photos from the night and copies of the many congratulatory emails the bakery received. From October, the bakery put up special POS material, promoting its BIA win on the shelves. The patisserie counter features the award, housed in a special case, and the award certificate hangs above it. Grumbley says his team didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to try and win, it was based on consistent performance. "It was a fantastic lift for the store, and the result of a lot of hard work over the years," he says. Despite the win, he adds, his attitude is not: ’We’ve won this now, job done’, but about maintaining the high standards achieved so far. Colleague development is still top of his agenda, alongside getting ready for Christmas, of course.

What Sainsbury’s said

"The team at Fosse Park were delighted when they were chosen as In-Store Bakery of the Year. Nick and his team are dedicated to consistently providing their customers with fantastic food. This, combined with anexcellent standard of customer service, meant they were worthy winners"
Kim Brown, category manager for bakery, Sainsbury’s