With shops in England set to reopen from Monday, Which? research has revealed the best and worst high street stores, according to shoppers.
The government has now confirmed that all shops in England will be able to open their doors from Monday 15 June. Some, such as DIY stores, have been able to open during lockdown, although many have been offering a click-and-collect service rather than regular browsing. However, ‘non-essential’ retailers, including clothes shops, have been shut since March.
If you’re planning to hit the shops, keen to try that pair of shoes for comfort or find the perfect gift for the hosts of a socially distanced barbecue, you may still want to limit the amount of stores you visit – so it’s worth knowing which are the best shops and heading straight for them.
We surveyed more than 7,000 Which? members before the lockdown about their experiences in some of the UK’s biggest high street shops, from John Lewis and Next to JD Sports and Primark. You can find out which retailers were voted the best and worst in the clothes, shoes and DIY categories below.
- For the full results in all categories, including beauty, furniture and tech, visit our guide to the best and worst high street shops.
Best clothes and accessory shops
Which? members rated 45 shops in this category, telling us about everything from the quality and range of products and how consistent the sizing is, to the after-sales service they received.
Five best clothes and accessory shops
Shoppers loved the five-star customer service at Rohan, as well as the quality of its products. Both John Lewis and Rohan scored five out of five for their after-sales service and returns processes.
Five worst clothes and accessory shops
Unfortunately, Sports Direct and JD Sports failed to impress, both scoring one star for multiple measures including customer service.
|42||House of Fraser||54%|
Our survey was conducted before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, but some clothes shops have attracted criticism since lockdown began.
Frasers Group, which includes House of Fraser and Sports Direct, initially insisted that customers post unwanted items back within 28 days of receipt during lockdown – despite clear rules from the government stating people should only leave their homes for food shopping or exercise.
After Which? contacted them, the retailers extended their return policies.
Best shoe shops
Size is important when it comes to shoes, and it can be annoying to find the right size in one style, only to find it doesn’t fit in another.
That’s why we asked customers to rate shoe and boot shops for the consistency of sizing across the store, as well as how true to size the shoes are.
Five best shoe and boot shops
These retailers all impressed our survey respondents with their in-store experience, as well as the quality of their products.
Five worst shoe and boot shops
Four of the five bottom shops in this sector scored just two stars for sizing, meaning you might have a frustrating experience when trying shoes on.
Several shoe shops have introduced discounts for NHS staff in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including Shoe Zone, which is offering a 10% discount through the Health Service Discounts website.
Which store will be the best fit for you, and how did shoe specialists such as Clarks and Schuh compare with generalists like Marks & Spencer? To find out, see the shoe and boot shop table in our full guide.
Best DIY and decorating shops
Many of us have done a spot of DIY or decorating during lockdown, and DIY stores have been allowed to stay open throughout the period from March to June.
Most still chose to close their doors until they felt able to open safely, and some, including Brewers, are still only offering click and collect or asking customers to order at the door without entering the store.
- Find out more: DIY shopping during coronavirus
Five best DIY and decorating shops
While click and collect has been useful in a bind, we know that many people will be looking forward to being able to browse the power tool aisle and get expert advice from store staff on what type of paint to use.
Shoppers told us that the top three stores in our table were great for both of these things, offering a wide range of quality products and excellent customer service.
Five worst DIY and decorating shops
Customer service and store experience are important to shoppers looking for DIY and decorating supplies, and the five retailers in the table below failed to impress on either measure. One was also given just one star out of five for product quality and range, meaning you could be left with a DIY disaster.
|10||B&M Home Store||59%|
While it’s not a traditional DIY or decorating shop, The Range has remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, as it sells food, toiletries, cleaning products, loo roll and pet supplies. It also introduced a 10% discount for NHS and HSE staff, which has been extended for the whole of June.
How we rated high street shops
Our survey was conducted two months before lockdown, and is reflective of customers’ experiences in the six months until January 2020.
We surveyed 7,184 Which? members on their experiences shopping for products within 10 categories – those included above, plus beauty and health, entertainment, furniture and homeware, household appliances, outdoor and sporting equipment, tech products, and stationery, crafts and gifting.
Customer scores are based on satisfaction with the shop on their last visit and the likelihood of recommending it.
- Find out more: latest news on shops reopening
What will the rules be for shops that are reopening?
The UK government has said that non-essential shops in England can reopen from 15 June. In Northern Ireland, all shops can reopen from today (12 June) but there are currently no set dates for reopening in Scotland or Wales.
Shops have been given detailed guidelines on how to operate in a safe manner, which will limit the potential spread of coronavirus. Recommended measures include:
- Limiting the number of customers in stores
- Installing signage to explain social distancing measures inside and outside the store
- Markings inside and outside stores to indicate correct queue distancing
- Installing cleaning/hand sanitiser stations
- Encouraging cashless purchases
- Installing screens to protect staff at tills
- Quarantining items that have been returned by customers.
Our full story on shops reopening contains more details.
Experts at data firm Springboard expect a surge of shoppers when stores reopen, while the BBC says that there are likely to be huge discounts on offer, with retailers desperate to shift stock that’s been sitting there since lockdown began in March.
While this may mean you can expect sales, it could also spell crowds or long queues. Our guides can help you stay safe while venturing out to the shops:
- Face mask buying guide
- Hand hygiene – what you need to know
- How to protect yourself and others
- Shopping safely at the supermarket
Get the latest updates with coronavirus news and advice from Which?.