Review of "Tesco Express"
TESCO EXPRESS, Shenley Brook End, Milton Keynes.
=============As a kid, I spent the first 10 or so years of my life living in a small village in Buckinghamshire where life seemed idylic, summer lasted forever and open fields abounded for an assortment of war games, sporting feats and smoking stolen cigarettes from my Mum's dwindling packet of Cadet cigarettes.
Amongst my memories is a cheerful, red-faced grocer called Mr Roper. Somewhat overweight and perpetually decked out in a knee length apron of depressive grey, Mr Roper ran a small convenience store a short bike ride away from home and delivered service the way it should be. Small chat, local gossip, friendly smiles and a loud "Cheerio" as the old bell on the shop door closed behind you. I always remember being sent down for odds and sods, and Mum asking me to tell old Roper to stick our purchases "in the book" - Old time speak for having bugger all money in your purse and getting everyday neccessities on tick!With said system in place, I spent many months acquiring limitless sweets, cans of drink and comics for myself and my mates at the expense of my unknowing mother until the day we finally upped sticks for the nearby towns. I've never had the heart to confess! Also working in the store was a nubile young girl from the village named Jill who, even as a snotty nosed schoolkid, held a place in my heart and made me feel funny things in my pants whenever I saw her. She had this habit of leaning over the sweet counter in the most revealing style you could imagine and all the lads in the village adored her.
Fast Forward 30 years, and the store I used and abused in my childhood is long gone. Closed sometime in the late eighties, it stood empty until about 8 years ago when it was finally converted into private accomodation and another nail in the coffin of traditional British retail was delivered with an unsympathetic thump. Mr Roper would have turned in his grave, and even poor old Jill would have been encouraged to have done up her blouse to at least three buttons up!As industry dies under a retail explosion, even the towns we finally moved to have suffered their fate. I can go out any day of the week, at pretty much any time, and purchase anything from a three-piece suite to a goldfish. It's never been easier to part with my money. But try buying a packet of fags and a conversation in the same breath and you might as well give up before even leave the house.
So the great bastion of the British corner shop falls in unglorious defeat, and so spawn the hybrid children that will carry the seed of consumerism for the generations to come.
Welcome to TESCO EXPRESS.
I already own things through TESCO that I cannot obtain elsewhere. My banking needs, for example, are met by the only institution in the country who were prepared to ignore my poor credit rating (It's a tax thing!) in a bid to secure my custom and loyalty. I no longer need keyrings because my clubcard now looks after my jinglies as well as my pockets! I'm a dyed-in-the-wool lean, mean spending machine and I'm giving it all the boys in blue and white!The growth of the TESCO chain in the last two decades has been immense. My home town, Aylesbury, has a population of just over 55,000 yet still warrants 2 superstores and a variety of Express outlets. From where I currently live in Milton Keynes, I've calculated 32 outlets including Express stores, that I can reach within a 30 minute car ride. Frightening stuff. It looks like these guys are gonna be here to stay.
As well as conducting regular weekly shops to one of three local TESCO superstores, I also find myself skipping across to a nearby housing estate to take care of my everyday requirements at TESCO EXPRESS in Shenley Brook End, Milton Keynes. Bread, milk, newspapers and ciggies are available seven days a week from 7am to 10pm, and the only time I can't get my TESCO fix is on Christmas day itself.TESCO EXPRESS is, as you might guess, a condensed form of their more traditional supermarket locations. Placed for optimisation, these outlets maximise the requirements of the local community while maximising the bottom line for the company itself. It's a modern-day mutuality merger and the success rate of these stores speak for themselves.
From the exterior, there's something quite disconcerting about TESCO EXPRESS outlets. Although they've generally been moved into existing buildings throughout the country, there's this overwhelming feeling that they somehow all look the same. TESCO have a formula that repeats success, and even exterior promotional advertising, store fronts and point of purchase regalia have to conform. All TESCO EXPRESS outlets have a selection of small-sized trolleys outside the store with the more commonly-used hand baskets loitering just inside the sliding doors. Come in, welcome and don't be afraid to spend...The first thing that struck me with this outlet, and indeed with every other TESCO EXPRESS outlet I've used, is the superb layout and maximisation of space. From the doorway of the Shenley Brook End location, I can pretty much see 50% of the store. Product placement is superb, especially as I was able to see all of the stores major money-saving promotional offers within seconds of entering the building. Good stuff, because whle conducting my shop the voices in my head mercilessly urged me to take advantage of a 2 for 1 Tango offer even though I hate it with a passion!
Unlike it's superior sibling supermarkets, there are no directional aisle notices to help you find what you're looking for quickly. This has no effect on finding what you need however, because stock is sensibly and logically placed to help you find ancillary items easily for those all-important add-on sales! Tea and sugar sit together cosily alongside a small range of biscuits for all your dipping needs. Likewise, the cheese and ham sandwich I purchased was within touching distance of a packet of crisps, a bar of chocolate AND a can of drink. Time saved, another £1.50's worth of things I didn't want and the profits just keep on coming in!In disagreement with opinions I've heard from other shoppers, I genuinely felt this TESCO EXPRESS outlet was extremely well stocked. Looking through the shelves, there was definitely a feeling of being able to obtain anything I could reasonably expect of such a location. There is a very good selection of fresh produce, including some rather surprising varieties in the fruit section. I expected to see the odd apple or banana but didn't count on the option of purchasing a mango. There's also some very tempting fresh mixed fruit or melon medleys although these did look a little overpriced in relation to the quantity of the packs. Veg choices are good too, and all produce looked fresh and appealing.
There's also an extensive range of tinned and preserved foods. Baked beans and ravioli sit alongside a good choice of baby foods, including some organic options for those that like that sort of thing. There's also an extensive range of sauces and condiments to supplement your dietary requirements and a good choice of cook-in sauces and pasta or oriental bases if you're feeling a little more adventurous. Kitchen essentials such as cooking oils, flours and mixes are also on the shelves.In the refridgerated section, there was a nice variety of ready meals with a "2 for £3" option on many of them. I've tried several of these in the past and have particularly enjoyed the chicken and pasta bake - beautiful with garlic and coriander naan bread!
There's a full complement of pies, pasties and scotch eggs for the stodgier eating option and a surprisingly good range of on-the-go sandwiches in comparison to the supermarket range.
Dairy produce was very well stocked with all milk options available as well as microbiotic drinks, yoghurts and tempting deserts. Not much in the way of butters and spreads though.For a weekend, the bread section was packed solid with a range of popular choices and there was also a nice selection of pick and mix fresh rolls on the shelves. There was also a choice of pitta and naan breads and a small selection of cakes and biscuits too.
For the hygiene conscious consumer, a standard range of soaps, toileteries and deodourants were on sale as well as standard household items such as washing powder, toilet rolls and washing-up liquids. The store also kept a small range of baby goods including nappies and wet wipes.A full selection of newspapers and magazines were available and the beer and wine section carried a good choice of options with several special offers on tinned lager. Spirits were available from behind the counter alongside a full range of cigarettes and tobacco.
The only section that failed to impress me was the frozen department, which focused solely on chips, pizza and sausages. Many items were out of stock and the empty spaces in the freezers were either a sign of poor ordering methods or slow shelf stacking duties. Even with a full complement of choices the range itself was limited.The store held a decent range of crisps and confectionary and catered for the local compulsive gambling element with a large choice of scratch cards and Lotto terminals on each till.
If I had to find a fault with the range of goods available, I'd have to highlight the lack of choice in terms of brand. There was rarely a choice between top-brand or home-brand purchases. I picked up some tea bags, but had to settle for a fairly expensive box of PG Tips because no alternatives were on sale. This problem was inherent throughout the store and I felt a little restricted, especially as I'm a sucker for a bargain. I like to get value for money wherever I shop but TESCO EXPRESS only satisfies the need of requirement and offers nothing by way of choice.In terms of price, I felt this location was more than competitive and certainly cheaper than some of the other medium-size convenience stores in my area. The store also maintained a good level of cleanliness and felt welcoming throughout my visit. Price tags were clear and understandable and any promotions were well displayed and definable.
Unfortunately, when it came to paying for my goods, the pleasantness of my visit began to subside. The queue to the next available till was probably 7 to 8 people deep, and although plenty of staff were working in the store there was only one till open for customers to pay at. The queue extended to halfway up the beer and wine aisle and caused difficulties for customers wishing to browse through the shelves.Additionally, the quality of service was generally poor. I was not welcomed to the till, no eye contact was made and the overall level of interaction was surly and uncomfortable. The cashier was slow to react to the queue in front of her and appeared inconvenienced when I asked for cigarettes. I felt she was a little cheesed off at the lack of support from her colleagues, but I felt it was a little unprofessional for her to pass these feelings on to the customer.
Cash handling and change giving was acceptable, and I did receive a thank-you and a receipt. My goods were packaged by the cashier at the point of purchase which allowed a certain amount of redemption. All major credit and debit card payment options were available and clearly highlighted next to the tills. The store also accepts the TESCO clubcard loyalty option in the same way as it's supermaket branches.Parking outside the store was ample, with two designated bays for disabled drivers. A cash point was also available for withdrawals outside the store. The overall shopping experience, with the exception of customer service, was more than acceptable and as good as any other local option I have available. It's just a shame that size doesn't allow a brand choice that complements a healthy-sized range.
And so it came to pass. The mighty TESCO crushed all those before her and sat aside the Retail Mountain in her triumph. TESCO saw the mountain was fertile and wholesome, and so broke her to bite-sized pieces, packaged her in clear plastic and slapped on a barcode prior to stacking.TESCO EXPRESS has already become a fundamental arena for the bread-and-butter consumer. There's a brand familiarity that you don't always get from a local store and the concept is familiar through use of the superstore predecessor. These outlets will continue to grow as consumer spending continues to spiral out of orbit.
As TESCO continue to increase their market share and the smaller shopholders head to the dole queue in flocks, one could be easily forgiven for feeling a tinge of dislike towards the new beast that continually hovers over our pockets. For all the convenience in the world, the cheery "goodbye" from a man in a grey apron is an addition that TESCO EXPRESS may not yet be able to add to the range.The Mr Roper's of this world are a breed long forgotten. Way before TESCO ever stepped foot into a council estate, cultural development in the UK had already dispersed of the local grocer. Later opening hours that served a less laid-back generation accomplished that task on it's own and I miss that personal touch.
I miss sticking a loaf of bread in the book. I miss the bell on the door. And most of all, I miss the sight of the nubile young Jill leaning over the fruit salads and blackjacks with her blouse undone for all to see. Halcyon days indeed...
Product Information : Tesco Express
Manufacturer's product description
Listed on Ciao since: 06/05/2005