Which? survey unveils worst high street shops

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The Independent Online

Two of the best-known sports shops, JD Sports and JJB Sports, have been voted the worst retail chains on the high street.

Members of the consumer organisation Which? gave the chains scores of 36 and 37 out of 100 respectively when considering a variety of factors including shopping experience and customer service.

The electrical retailer Currys Digital came third from bottom, scoring 40 due to its “unhelpful and unknowledgeable staff.”

The 14,036 members of Which? were asked to give their views on products, price, staff and shopping environment and whether they would recommend the shop to a friend. 96 chains were included in the survey.

Waitrose and John Lewis, both part of the staff-owned John Lewis Partnership, came first and second overall, scoring 84 and 78, on account of their local price promise and courteous staff.

Independent electrical shops came third overall because of the expert advice their shopkeepers give to 21st Century shoppers facing the “bewildering” array of computers, cameras and TVs.

The survey showed customers will tolerate average or below customer experience if they consider the products to be strong value, as in the case of Aldi, which came seventh.

But in its report, Which? said shoppers felt that JD Sports and JJB Sports had neither good products nor helpful staff. “Once again, JJB Sports and JD Sports claim the dubious honour of being the bottom two and, like poor performers in other sectors, staff are a key letdown – both score a dismal one star for environment, staff and a mediocre two stars for product,” the report said.

“One member commented on the ‘congested’ nature of JJB Sports and another complained of ‘terrible customer service’ at JD Sports. Sportsworld [another sports shop] scored just one star for environment and staff and keeps its low 44 per cent customer score from last year, despite achieving the only five stars [for price] in this category.”

Bulletin boards are abuzz with tales of woe from people shopping or working in JD Sports and JJB Sports, as they are for many other retailers.

Of JD Sports, one sympathised with a customer complaining about its returns policy. “Dixie Chick” wrote: “I've probably have (sic) worse experiences with this shop. I worked there for a day and it was probably the worse (sic) experience ever.”

Another shopper, writing about JJB Sports, said: “Their staff and customer service is (sic) appalling. However I don't blame the staff. If I was a 17-year-old getting paid minimum wage, and no commission, being contractually obliged to work Saturdays, I'd not care too.

“By penny pinching they've bought themselves a poor reputation.”

According to Which?, shoppers’ biggest complaints in the survey were unhelpful or ignorant shop assistants.

"The collapse of familiar names like Woolworths and MFI shows just how tough it is on the high street,” commented Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? magazine.

“While slashing prices might get customers through the door, we know that shoppers value those stores that make shopping a pleasurable experience - those that offer quality products, have helpful staff and go the extra mile to give their customers a personal service."

JJB Sports said two leading businessmen, Sir David Jones, former executive chairman of Next, and Peter Williams, former chief executive of Selfridges, had been appointed to run the company. A spokesman said: “Following their appointment the board will be conducting a full review of the business including in-store operations.

“There is room for improvement.”

JD Sports declined to comment.

Which? online panel members rated their satisfaction with, and likelihood to recommend, 96 retail chains they visited regularly.

Which? then combined and weighted the answers given for the survey to provide final scores out of 100. The survey was carried out in October 2008.

Top 10 shops

1. Waitrose (84 per cent)

2. John Lewis (78 per cent)

3. Local specialist electrical retailers (75 per cent)

4. Lush (72 per cent)

= Local independent home or garden store (72 per cent)

6. Local independent home entertainment store (71 per cent)

7. Aldi (70 per cent)

8. Lidl (69 per cent)

= Waterstones (69 per cent)

10. Local independent sports and outdoor store (68 per cent)

Bottom 10 shops

86. Phones 4U (44 per cent)

= Vodafone (44 per cent)

= Sportsworld (44 per cent)

= PC World (44 per cent)

90. Topshop/Topman (43 per cent)

= Somerfield (43 per cent)

92. Currys (42 per cent)

= WHSmith (42 per cent)

94. Currys Digital (40 per cent)

95. JJB Sports (37 per cent)

96. JD Sports (36 per cent)

To see the full survey, click here