Which? survey names best and worst high street shops

WHSmith has finished bottom of Which?’s annual UK high street shops survey, while specialist retailers come out on top.

Conducted in January, the annual survey of 7,784 members of consumer body Which? was based on in-store purchases made during the past 12 months. It looked at the bricks-and-mortar shops offering the best in-store experiences, with responses for over 100 major retailers. Customer scores are made up of how satisfied they were with their experience and whether they would recommend the retailer.

WHSmith came last in the poll with a customer score of 50%, accompanied by Homebase/Bunnings with a score of 53% and Sports Direct with 54%.

Customers rated WHSmith as very poor for value for money, service, and in-store experience. Shoppers criticised the “cramped and messy” stores, with one complaining that “stores are crowded, dirty and the staff unhelpful”, while another said “my local store is untidy and too small for comfort”.

Homebase/Bunnings was crticised for being difficult to navigate: shoppers told Which? it was “hard to find anything in overcrowded shelves” and it was “difficult to find staff for guidance”, while Sports Direct was described by one shopper as having “a very oppressive atmosphere”.

Taking the top spot was Richer Sounds, with a customer score of 89%, alongside Rohan (87%) and John Lewis (86%). Richer Sounds was praised for its stellar customer service and in-store experience, with shoppers appreciating special touches such as having purchases carried to their cars, and the retailer paying for customer parking.

Five of the six highest-scoring shops were specialist retailers, with customers commending them for their expert advice and high-quality products. The only generalist retailer at the top of the table was John Lewis & Partners.

The department store group was given a customer score of 86%, and collected high scores across the board when it came to experiences of buying products across a range of categories, including appliances, electronics, furniture, home, clothing, shoes and entertainment.

Customers told Which? that John Lewis was “a reliable store with products I can trust – I know staff will sort out any problems that may arise”, praising it for “nicely laid out stores with helpful staff and good parking”.

A number of retailers underperforming in the high street survey also ranked poorly in Which?’s most recent online shops survey. Homebase.co.uk and SportsDirect.com languished at the bottom of this table with 55% and 61% respectively. WHSmith.co.uk fared only slightly better, with a score of 63%.

When it came to experiences of shopping in-store, 88% of shoppers valued the hands-on experience of being able to touch or try on a product before buying, while 69% said they appreciated being able to take away the product there and then.

Harry Rose, editor of Which? Magazine, said: “Worries about the future of the high street aren’t going away anytime soon, but it’s clear that there is still demand from shoppers for the experience and services offered by physical stores that can’t always be replicated online.

“Giving shoppers a great in-store experience is more important than ever if brands want to thrive on the high street. Our findings go to show that if retailers can deliver great value, quality products and first-class customer service, customers will keep coming back.”


Top rated shops:

1) Richer Sounds – 89% (223)

2) Rohan – 87% (256)

3) John Lewis & Partners – 86% (824)

4) Hotter Shoes  – 84% (310)

= Lakeland – 84% (512)

= Toolstation  – 84% (444)

7) Apple – 83% (316)

= Bodycare – 83% (99)

= Crew – 83% (68)

10) Screwfix – 82% (587)

= Seasalt – 82% (201)

= Waterstones – 82% (565)


Bottom rated shops:

101) Clinton Cards – 61% (488)

102) Peacocks – 59% (153)

= House of Fraser – 59% (303)

104) New Look – 58% (124)

105) River Island – 56% (62)

= JD Sports – 56% (132)

107) Sports Direct – 54% (396)

108) Homebase/Bunnings – 53% (486)

109) WH Smith – 50% (586)

Additionally, Which? asked its members about experiences of shopping for products in different categories. To calculate category customer scores, shoppers were asked how satisfied they were with their experience of shopping at the retailer, and whether they would recommend that retailer for purchases in that category.

The highest-scoring shops in each category are:

  • Appliances and electronics: Richer Sounds – 90% (221)
  • Furniture and home: John Lewis – 87% (311)
  • Clothes and shoes: Rohan – 87% (161)
  • DIY and decorating: Toolstation – 85% (427)
  • Entertainment: Waterstones – 80% (505)
  • Outdoor and sports: Rohan – 90% (162)
  • Pet accessories and toys: Home Bargains – 74% (75)
  • Personal care, wellbeing and beauty: John Lewis – 87% (106)

The number in brackets represents the number of responses for that retailer.

For the full results, visit: http://which.co.uk/highstreetshops2019

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