High Streets Initiative Carly Hacon · 29 May 2018
Is this retail icon really the worst high street shop in Britain?
The retailer rated the worst high street shop in the UK has been in the bottom two for the past eight years, according to the results from the Which? annual shopping survey. WHSmith has been ranked rock bottom due to its poor customer service, value for money and standard of its stores. The store recently faced more backlash due to charging customers for toiletries and tooth paste in its hospital stores. One shopper told Which? that WHSmith is hugely inferior to what it was in the past. Another customer said: I find WHSmith very expensive and its stores need updating, and I always use the self-service tills because the staff are rude. Which? surveyed over 10, 000 shoppers about their shopping experience at 100 major retailers. The customer scores given are based on customers? experiences of purchasing non-grocery items, their satisfaction levels and the likelihood of recommending each shop. When describing their problems with shopping in store, shoppers said they are put off by crowds (49%), queueing (49%) as well as other shoppers behaviours (38%). The Which? survey also asked shoppers what they liked about shopping in-store and found that customers value being able to touch, feel and try on items before purchasing (82%), being able to take purchased items away (74%) and being able to ask questions of staff (39%). Ben Clissitt, Which? Magazine Editor, said: Our findings show that if retailers can strike the right balance between good value, quality products and first-class customer service, shoppers will keep coming back to their stores. it is clear that our traditional high street is changing and while this is bad news for some retailers who have struggled to adapt, others have seized the opportunity to make their mark. At the other end of the scale Lush, Savers and Smyths Toys have been ranked the top three best retailers in the UK. This was particularly triumphant for these stores as none of them even managed to reach last year’s top 10. Customers praised the smells of Lush stores, the prices at discount cosmetics store Savers, and the friendly and cheerful? staff at Smyths Toys. Customers also favoured retailers that offered a sensory experience or specific expertise that is simply not available to them online. Price proved to be a deciding factor for many consumers particularly when it came to everyday essentials pushing stores like Savers up the rankings. Last year’s top two, Toolstation and Richer dropped to fourth and sixth place. John Lewis, which finished joint third in 2017, fell to 10th place its worst ranking since the start of the annual surveys launched in 2010. For some high street stores, it is proving difficult to stay afloat as over the past few months alone, Toys R Us and Maplin, have gone into administration. Others such as Mothercare and Laura Ashley have issued profit warnings and New Look has requested rent cuts. Also, Debenhams has cut staff numbers and announced an 85% drop in profits, whilst Carpetright plans to close a quarter of their stores nationwide. Some Laura Ashley, Mothercare and Debenhams customers told Which? that despite the wide range of products they thought value for money was poor unless it was during the sales. Although, shoppers praised Newlook for its cheap and cheerful nature but one shopper claimed that the stores could be a bit tidier.
ABOUT THE EXPERTCarly Hacon
Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.