/ 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
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…