/ Shopping

We reveal the nation’s top shops – is yours on the list?

Illustration of shops

The Which? top 100 shops league table reveals those that the nation loves and those that fall short of giving a special shopping experience. But do your own experiences tally up with our survey?

This year, Which? asked more than 11,000 shoppers about the big chains they have shopped in over the past six months to hammer out our top 100 league table.

We’ve covered everything from clothes stores (a personal interest of mine) through to DIY outlets, as well as the best places to shop if you have little ones (or they’re on the way). We’ve even wheedled out the nation’s favourite department store, though I’m not sure that one will come as a shock.

But what we haven’t done this year is rate entertainment shops. With 4,200 books, news and stationary shops closing since 1998, and a rise in online sales of books and music, there just aren’t that many to judge.

What are the top shops?

So who got those coveted top places? Drum roll please for… Richer Sounds, Lush and Lakeland. Hang on, that’s a pretty diverse bunch – an audio visual specialist, a quirky cosmetics store and a kitchen gadget emporium.

But when you see the mass of five-star ratings and read the glowing comments the top three get for their knowledgeable and helpful staff, you know they’re hitting the mark for customers.

These chains go the extra mile and clearly know what the customer wants. Having shopped at Richer Sounds and Lush regularly myself, I’m not surprised at their ranking as first and second place respectively.

Completing the top five are the Disney Store and firm Which? member favourite John Lewis – also crowned the best department store. These guys are also recognised for offering a great experience, and only narrowly missed a spot in the top three for overall satisfaction.

Despite the criticism we’ve given John Lewis in the past for changes to its Never Knowingly Undersold policy, comments such as ‘dependable’ show that you trust it as the overall one-stop shop.

At the bottom of the shops table

Bottom of the Which? top 100 sits WH Smith, Focus and PC World.

With Focus recently in administration, other DIY chains have an opportunity to really step up – as it’s the local independents in this category that shoppers love.

WH Smith received negative comments for high prices, despite some shoppers praising its customer service and PC World was frequently slated for bad customer service. So while a good bargain is clearly a factor when you’re going shopping, the treatment you get in the store is what people really remember.

What do you think of the results? Do you have other first choice shopping destinations?

Comments
Profile photo of Dan Moore
Member

It’s interesting that the advent of internet shopping has not really caused enough of the big high street shops to pull their finger out and offer a decent service. Those at the bottom of the pile deserve our condemnation and if they go pop, I don’t think anyone will miss them. As for the top dogs, good luck to them.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

There is no need for high street shops to offer a decent service unless we can be sure that online suppliers are better. Generally Internet prices are lower but many of us could tell tales of poor service or unresolved complaints when buying via the Internet.

It is human nature to want good service and lowest possible prices, but that is difficult to achieve. It is good that some shops do consistently better than others. That deserves publicity and their employees deserve praise.

Profile photo of Martyn Hocking
Member

Richer Sounds manage to offer low prices and great customer service – that’s not easy to do, but it’s clearly still possible.

Member
Matt Pearcey says:
13 May 2013

I must be the lone voice against them in that case. I decided to go ‘high st’ rather than internet, and chose Richer Sounds in Bath. I ordered the product on the recommendation of the assistant, but was told ‘we don’t have it in stock, but I can order it and you will have it on Monday’. Needless to say, this was ideal, so I proceeded.

Took a day to wait for delivery, by 1700 nothing, so I called the store. I was told by the assistant that they never make these sort of commitments and essentially implied that I was an idiot for believing the chap who sold it to me.

Passed on to the manager, who promised to ‘find out what was going on’ and call me right back. 45 minutes later, he called saying ‘well, I’ve emailed them but haven’t had a response…’

So much for finding out what was going on.

Last time I shop at Richer Sounds regardless of how they resolve this.

Profile photo of william
Member

I’m not surprised about the comment about WH Smith, I stopped using them over 25 years ago when I perceived they were expensive and that was before the internet took off in the way it has.

I’ve also heard good things about Richer Sounds, although I’ve yet to experience it myself.

Any company that realises that the customer should be king and not seen as a cash cow is going to be a winner, shame they’ll be so few and fair between.

Profile photo of alistair
Member

My local W H Smith in Broad Street, Reading is total carnage. I stopped going in and buying stuff years ago. Overcrowded shelves and a highly irritating snake around the sweets to the counters.
Should have gone years ago with an attitude like that.
Surprisingly, they did have enlightened days some years ago when you could pick up a newspaper and throw your money in a ‘bucket’. That didn’t seem to survive for long.

Member
Jenny says:
23 May 2011

I won’t be surprised if WH Smiths disappears on our high streets, especially as their own web-site undercuts them! I think it’s appalling that they charge different prices – WH Smith should be WH Smith regardless of where you buy from. Web-site and high street should complement each other, not compete with each other.

Profile photo of ArgonautoftheSeas
Member

Boots in my high street will not match their website price inclusive of delivery charge which is
quite a fair bit cheaper as to a device I had wanted to buy.

BTW both WH Smith shops in my locality have closed down, long before internet shopping took a
stranglehold.

Member
lisse says:
26 May 2011

I have shopped in newcastle for years and never knew that Richer sounds existed until my daughter was looking for a television and found them on the internet. The whole shopping experience was painless: great website, VIP registration for a 10% discount, easy directions to store. Made a quick phone call to reserve product, helpful and friendly staff and even carried the television to the car. What can i say why can’t we have top rate service all the time from all shopping experiences, would highly recommend Richer Sounds to everyone…well done…

Profile photo of frugal ways
Member

Richer sounds have the best guarantee set up going I’ve found, but I’ve yet to need/use it. Watch out also for their branch manager specials, I’ve picked up some cracking deals for hifi equipment from them.

From a lowly customer’s point of view, I think their success is down to selling to more customers with a lower profit margin, rather than the current “norm” of selling to less customers at a higher price. Real value for money attracts repeat business, which in turn increases customer numbers by recommendations and word of mouth. There can be no better way to improve turn over than looking after their regular customers.
This is how most high street businesses used to operate, before most started pricing goods based on demographics and making maximum profits, ie, the customer cash cow.

Member
ChrisTurner says:
6 November 2011

Apologies if I am in the wrong forum but are we in the minority in thinking that the Co-op needs to seriously raise its game in their small food stores? They have taken over a grocery store in the town centre of a small market town in West Dorset. It is the only general grocery in the town centre but Co-op head office refuses to acknowledge that it is anything more than their designation of a ‘convenience store’, i.e., what you would expect to find as a corner shop in a suburban housing estate. We want a store that stocks what we want to buy, not what Manchester’s H.O. tells us we should be buying. Not only is the product range limited but, because we are seen as being a town with above average affluence, we get charged 20-50p more per item than the Co-op in nearby towns! Many of us vote with our feet, and wheels, and shop in the nearby towns which is not good for our town, fuel consumption, or saving the planet which Co-op frequently claims to be doing…..!

I have written to Head Office twice, directly to the Chairman, Mr. Len Wardle, but am I still banging my head against a brick wall or can I hope to change their blinkered policies?

Profile photo of chrisie
Member

WH Smith in S Shields A newsagent thats closed on a sunday.So no sunday papers.Posters in the window promoting products they dont stock.

Member
Charles Legg says:
6 May 2014

I don’t know why John Lewis’s still rank so highly. Their goods may be of good quality and competitively priced but their service has gone downhill recently. We ordered some very expensive blinds in November. A man turned up to fit them at the beginning of December, fitted two but declared the third to be defective and in need of replacement. He disappeared with our blind which was eventually returned to the makers just in time for them to close for 2 weeks. When the factory re-opened we found ourselves at the back of the queue for our replacements which were not fitted until the end of January. The attitude of the staff was dreadful. Their view was that it was perfectly ok to take our money and leave us without our goods for over a month. We then made the mistake of ordering a washing machine and paid for fitting. Two men turned up with it, took one look at where we wanted it fitting and made it clear they were only able to fit to a set of pipes adjacent to the back of the machine, while we needed extension pipes fitted. No mention of this when we ordered the machine. Net result, we made them take it back and ordered another machine from Curry’s. As for finding staff in the Oxford street store, don’t get me started. Just let me say that we think their motto is ‘never knowingly over-staffed’.

Member
WaitedInAgain says:
30 June 2015

Normally I love John Lewis, but feeling very let down by the online store. Of course its only John Lewis in name now having been outsourced to Capita. Delivery date missed, dropped calls, their system down so can’t see order, can’t even complain to JL, even that goes to Capita.

Member
max says:
30 June 2015

I’ve had a dreadful experience with the Capita help desk for John Lewis too.

Wishing I hadn’t bought from JL now.

Tempted to pay the cost if return just to be able to reject it and cause them a fraction of the hassle they have caused me.

Does outsourcing ever really work?