Sports Direct has finished bottom of the table in Which?’s survey on the best places to buy outdoor and sporting equipment, with shoppers panning its after sales service, guarantees and Covid-19 response.
With lockdown lifting and people finally getting back to their favourite outdoor activities, getting the right gear can make all the difference. The consumer champion surveyed more than 10,000 shoppers to find out the outdoor and sporting goods retailers that aced it last year and those that were left down in the relegation places.
Which? asked shoppers to rate their experiences with the UK’s biggest and best-known retailers on a variety of factors, including product range and quality, customer service, in-store and online experience, value for money, after sales service and even stores’ Covid-19 responses.
Sports Direct propped up the table of 29 retailers with a disappointing customer score of 65 per cent, with shoppers only giving it two stars for its after sales service and its guarantees.
It languished alongside Costco.co.uk (customer score 67%), Littlewoods.com (67%), American Golf (68%), House of Fraser (69%) and Debenhams (69%) in the bottom six.
Sports Direct only received two stars for its Covid-19 response, where shoppers were asked to rate stores and websites on how well they communicated pandemic-related changes such as queueing systems, social distancing measures and delivery delays. The retailer received the lowest rating of any retailer for this measure.
While several individual respondents commented on the impressive breadth of products available at Sports Direct, shoppers only gave its range three stars overall.
One shopper said that the retailer was a last option, citing its “bad returns policy”.
Sports Direct and other Fraser Group-owned retailers only extended their returns windows after Which? called on them to review their policies during the first lockdown.
The brands were originally insisting that customers post unwanted items back within 28 days of receipt, despite clear rules from the government stating people should only leave their homes for food shopping or exercise.
The highest-rated shop in the Which? survey was outdoor and travel clothing retailer Rohan (87%), with shoppers impressed with its product quality, staff helpfulness and knowledge and its guarantee – garnering five stars for all three ratings.
Over a third of those who shopped there said they regularly buy their technical clothing from Rohan, with one shopper saying: “We always shop here. Great atmosphere and service. High quality technical clothing made to look like every day clothing”.
Fashionable women’s workout wear retailer Sweaty Betty came in a close second with an impressive customer score of 82 per cent. It achieved five stars for value for money, product range, quality and staff helpfulness and knowledge.
Sports and footwear giant Nike (77%) put in a respectable performance with four star ratings for its range and product quality and for value for money.
Outdoor specialists Blacks (72%) and Mountain Warehouse (73%) finished in the middle of the pack, with three stars for product quality and after sales service.
Very.co.uk joined Sweaty Betty and ebay.co.uk in receiving five stars for value for money – the only three retailers to achieve top marks on this measure.
Ele Clark, Which? Money and Shopping Editor, said:
“Sports and outdoor equipment doesn’t always come cheap, so shoppers need to be able to trust that the retailer they choose will offer both great customer service and competitive value for money.
“As we emerge from lockdown, anyone looking to buy new kit should consider how a store treats its customers, not only at the point of purchase but also if something goes wrong further down the line.”
1. Rohan (105) 87%
2. Sweaty Betty (46) 82%
3. Cotswold Outdoors (130) 79%
4. Wiggle.co.uk (76) 78%
5. Decathlon (190) 77%
= Ebay.co.uk (254) 77%
= Nike (153) 77%
29. Sports Direct (326) 65%
27. Costco.co.uk (68) 67%
= Littlewoods.com (49) 67%
26. American Golf (96) 68%
24. House of Fraser (52) 69%
= Debenhams (86) 69%
Rights of reply
Which? contacted Sports Direct for a comment but it had not replied by the time of publication.
Notes to editors:
- Which? surveyed 10,909 adults (Which? members and the general public) between 18th and 27th November 2020.
- Retailers extend returns policies during lockdown following pressure from Which?
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