For the second year in a row, a survey of almost 8,000 shoppers finds that WH Smith is the worst high street retailer in the UK.
Participants were asked to rate over 100 different high street retail outlets and stores on a variety of factors, including value for money and overall in-store experience. For both of these categories, WH Smith was rated ‘very poor’.
Other retailers received similarly negative reviews, however, with the next worst store being Homebase. John Lewis was at the top of the reviews, with their feedback matching the customer-focused image that they have focused on portraying in recent years.
It wasn’t just the value for money which let WH Smith down though; it also scored negatively in relation to store layout, tidiness and helpfulness of staff. The cleanliness of WH Smith stores has commonly been criticised throughout questionnaires, and a spoof Twitter account that is based around shaming stores for the state of their carpets has achieved a following of more than 24,000 people.
Overall sales at WH Smith have been falling over the past few years, with this being blamed on changing customer shopping habits, a general shift towards online purchases, and customers preferring to save money rather than spend. As such, many stores have had to contend with falling revenues and profits, something which has clearly impacted on the company’s ability to invest in store renovations.
However, other divisions of the store have been steadily improving despite these challenging conditions. WH Smith stores and others owned by the same retail group have expanded their businesses by 8% at concession stores located with railway stations and airports. While this provides hope for the business as a whole, it must be remembered that these represent a very small minority of overall store locations, and thus this news does not negate the results of the recent Which? survey.
An analysis of the survey overall finds that customers are focused on three distinct things; value for money, quality products/services, and excellent customer service. It seems that if WH Smith were to invest in these areas, they might find themselves moving away from the bottom of this list – these are the key points that the CEO and Director should focus on, rather than the expansion of concession stands at airports if the company wants to survive changing customer habits and expectations.