The high street is no longer the focus of our shopping experience.
With retail experts like Mary Portas throwing taxpayer’s money at trying to revive our declining town centres, retailers are also having to fight that much harder to keep us coming through their doors.
A recent Consumer’s Association survey has revealed that the squeeze on household budgets is having an impact on shopping habits – with more than half of shoppers saying that they are doing less shopping than this time last year.
But like many contemporary revolutions, it is technology and convenience that’s driving the change in our traditional buying patterns.
Online shopping is increasingly preferred by Consumer Association members, with 41 per cent claiming it’s cheaper and easier to compare prices.
Martyn Hocking, the editor of the Consumer’s Association monthly magazine Which? says that high street shops have to sharpen up their act if they want to retain our loyalty.
‘People are becoming choosier about when and how they purchase products,’ he says.
‘Shops cannot afford to give customers poor service if they want to tempt shoppers away from their computers and back to the high street.’
His comments came after more than 11,000 Which? members took part in an annual shopping survey, rating the high street shops for price, quality, service, product range, and store environment.
The 2012 league table of the 100 best and worst shops, revealed some surprising results. Out of 11,274 shoppers surveyed, Lush, a Poole-based national handmade cosmetics and beauty products chain, came out tops.
Lush polled 83 per cent, with department store John Lewis and technology giant Apple just a whisker behind with an 81 per cent approval rating.
There were no surprises in the department store category, with John Lewis rated top department store two years in a row. The top 10 included Marks and Spencer, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, Debenhams, and BHS.
At the other end of the scale, there were some significant surprises.
JJB Sports, Poundstretcher, Tesco, Blacks, WH Smith, and Halfords were all in the bottom five stores for price, quality, and service.
BABY AND CHILD
Top baby and child store was Disney, closely followed by Boots and Mothercare.
Toys ‘R Us although having a considerable local presence, came way down the list and was only rated 78th out of 100.
Specialists Mamas and Papas, Early Learning Centre, and the Entertainer, were all middle of table performers, but Argos failed to maintain its second place in this category from last year, slipping from 75 to 67 per cent satisfaction ratings.
CLOTHES, SHOES AND ACCESSORIES
They may not always be stylish, but Clarks were clear winners by a mile for quality shoes. Fat Face, Mamas and Papas, Next, Selfridges and Debenhams were all up there for clothing, but Tesco was rated only 53rd with shoppers giving them the thumbs down for presentation, and poor customer service.
John Lewis, and Apple are the best shops for buying electricals. Hard on their heels were Richer Sounds and the independents.
Apple didn’t fare well on price, but outshone all the others, with lots of working equipment that shoppers can handle and try out for themselves before they buy.
Morrisons was the lowest rated place for buying electricals, scoring just 48 per cent for their product range, service, and staff product knowledge.
Overall some really big names were clearly best avoided if buyers were looking for a positive shopping experience and after-sales service.
On the up, PC World showed a marked improvement from last year, but Comet came out best at 65th in the overall league table. Argos also did well, but Tesco was definitely the one to avoid for all home electrical products.