WHSmith finishes bottom in Which? high street shops survey

WHSmith has finished bottom of Which?’s annual UK high street shops survey rankings of more than 100 shops, while specialist retailers come out on top.

The annual survey of more than 7,700 Which? members looked at the bricks and mortar shops offering the best in-store experiences, amid concerns for the future of the UK high street.

WHSmith propped up the table with a meagre customer score of 50 per cent, accompanied by Homebase/Bunnings with a score of 53 per cent and Sports Direct with 54 per cent.

The retailer was slammed by customers who rated it 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 slated for being difficult to navigate – shoppers told Which? it was “hard to find anything in overcrowded shelves’”, and that 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 per cent, alongside Rohan (87%) and John Lewis (86%). The home entertainment brand was praised for its stellar customer service and in-store experience, with shoppers appreciating special touches like having purchases carried to their cars, or 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.

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

Which? surveyed shoppers on their 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.

The results of the Which? survey come with the future of the UK high street hanging in the balance, following a series of high-profile brands announcing store closures and falling into administration.

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 the table with 55 per cent and 61 per cent respectively. WHSmith.co.uk fared only slightly better, with a score of 63 per cent.

When it came to experiences of shopping in-store, 88 per cent of shoppers valued the hands-on experience of being able to touch or try on a product before buying, while 69 per cent 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 – 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)

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

Notes to editors:

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

  2. In January 2019, Which? surveyed 7,784 Which? members about the in-store purchases they had made during the past 12 months.

  3. At least 30 responses are needed for a retailer to make the tables (sample sizes in brackets).

  4. Overall customer score is based on satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending each shop.

  5. Additionally, Which? asked 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 as follows:

  • 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)

  1. Results for Which?’s most recent online shops survey can be found at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/best-and-worst-shops/article/best-and-worst-online-shops

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