WHSmith has once again been voted the UK’s worst high street shop in an annual survey.
The chain, which has consistently finished bottom of the Which? survey in previous years, propped up the table with a meagre customer score of 50%, just below Homebase and the former Bunnings on 53% and Sports Direct on 54%.
Customers slammed WH Smith for its very poor value for money, service and in-store experience, and criticised the “cramped and messy” stores.
The high street stalwart retorted that it served three million customers every week and had maintained a presence in the high street when many others were closing stores.
The survey of more than 7,700 Which? members voted in favour of specialist retailers in terms of the best in-store experiences, amid concerns for the future of the high street.
Shoppers told Which? that Homebase/Bunnings was difficult to navigate and that it was “hard to find anything in overcrowded shelves” and “difficult to find staff for guidance”.
Sports Direct was described by one shopper as having “a very oppressive atmosphere”.
Richer Sounds was voted the best retailer with a customer score of 89%, just ahead of outdoor and travel equipment chain Rohan (87%) and John Lewis (86%).
Customers praised Richer Sounds for its in-store experience, with shoppers appreciating service such as 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 general retailer at the top of the table was John Lewis, which was praised by customers for being “a reliable store with products I can trust” with “nicely laid out stores with helpful staff and good parking”.
Which? Magazine editor Harry Rose 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.”
WHSmith said: “This survey accounts for the views of only 586 Which? subscribers and is neither statistically relevant nor meaningful relative to our loyal customer base.
“Every week we serve three million customers in our 600 UK High Street stores and have maintained our presence on the high street where many other retailers are closing stores. We work hard to improve customer experiences and continue to invest in new and existing stores.”
The top-rated shops according to the Which? survey are:
- Richer Sounds (89%)
- Rohan (87%)
- John Lewis (86%)
- Hotter Shoes (84%) = Lakeland (84%) = Toolstation (84%)
- Apple (83%) = Bodycare (83%) = Crew (83%)
- Screwfix (82%) = Seasalt (82%) = Waterstones (82%)
The bottom-rated shops are:
- Clinton Cards (61%)
- Peacocks (59%) = House of Fraser (59%)
- New Look (58%)
- River Island (56%) = JD Sports (56%)
- Sports Direct (54%)
- Homebase/Bunnings (53%)
- WHSmith (50%)