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29 May 2019

WHSmith finishes bottom in Which? high street shops survey 2019

Richer Sounds tops the table in our survey of more than 7,700 shoppers

WHSmith has finished last in our annual high street shops survey, with a disappointing customer score of 50%.

Richer Sounds claimed the top spot and has been rated the best high street shop by our panel of more than 7,700 shoppers. The home entertainment specialist received an impressive 89% customer score.

For the full rankings and to find out how your favourite shops performed, head to our guide to the best and worst high street shops.

The 10 best high street shops

PlaceShopCustomer score
1Richer Sounds (223)89%
2Rohan (256)87%
3John Lewis (824)86%
4Hotter Shoes (310)84%
=Lakeland (512)84%
=Toolstation (444)84%
7Apple (319)83%

Table notes:Customer score is based on overall satisfaction with the shop and how likely people are to recommend it to a friend. Sample size in brackets.

Richer Sounds, Rohan and John Lewis claim top three places

In January 2019, we asked 7,784 Which? members to tell us about their in-store shopping experiences over the past six months.

Richer Sounds' top-ranking score of 89% means it just beats outdoor clothing specialist Rohan (87%) and department store John Lewis & Partners (86%) to the top spot.

Fourth place is shared by Hotter Shoes, Lakeland and Toolstation, which all score 84%.

Five of the six top-runners are specialist shops. Hotter Shoes specialises in comfortable footwear, Lakeland sells kitchen and homeware while Toolstation caters to DIY enthusiasts.

The only non-specialist in the top six is all-rounder John Lewis, known for its excellent customer service and vast range of products.

Our survey respondents agree. 'It's a reliable store with products I can trust - I know staff will sort out any problems that may arise,' explained one.

Shoppers love these top-rated shops for their high level of knowledge, expert customer service and good value for money. For in-store shoppers, a good store environment is an important element in where they choose to shop. Our best-rated shops score highly in this area.

Other highly ranked shops include Apple, toiletries shops Bodycare (both 83%), women's clothing store Seasalt and bookshop Waterstones (both 82%).

We have also ranked shops and websites within their specific product categories. Find out where you should be buying DIY and decorating kit,electricals and appliances and beauty and personal care items.

The 10 worst high street shops

PlaceShopCustomer score
101Clinton Cards (488)61%
102House of Fraser (303)59%
=Peacocks (153)59%
104New Look (124)58%
105JD Sports (132)56%
=River Island (62)56%
107Sports Direct (396)54%

WHSmith ranked lowest in our table. The stationery specialist was described by shoppers as 'cramped and messy', and one said 'stores are crowded and the staff members are very unhelpful'.

Homebase takes second-to-last place. The ailing DIY store has recently dropped the 'Bunnings' branding from its stores, to the relief of some people in our survey. 'My local Homebase is better now they have dropped the Bunnings association,' commented one. Yet this hasn't helped Homebase to rise up the rankings, with customers rating it poorly across the board.

Big brands JD Sports , River Island and Sports Direct also appear towards the bottom of the table. JD Sports and Sport Direct customers were particularly unimpressed with the store environment.

One of the things which influences shopper opinion is a shop's returns policy - read our advice on in-store shopping returns rights

What makes a good high street shop?

With so many shoppers buying online, some high street shops are struggling to encourage shoppers to come into their stores. Shoppers expect more than ever before.

Harry Rose, editor of Which? magazine, said: 'Giving shoppers a great in store experience is more important than ever if brands want to thrive on the high street.

'Our findings go to show that if retailers can deliver great-value, quality products and first-class customer service, customers will keep coming back.'

Shops with excellent customer service have come out on top and those with expert knowledge about their products do particularly well. Shoppers want a personalised experience when they visit a store.

Whether it's a big-brand retailer or a smaller independent shop, those that go the extra mile for their customers will continue to stand out.

Find out which retailers are a cut above the rest and have achieved Which? Recommended Provider status in ourguide to how we rate shops.