Woman shopping at an appliance store

Retail giants need to sort out their service

If you’re craving a pleasant shopping experience this Christmas, you’re more likely to find it at the little guys than at the big chain stores.

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Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said its latest retailer satisfaction survey found smaller players often out-performed the retail giants when it came to keeping customers happy.

“Harvey Norman, Godfreys, PlaceMakers, Specsavers, Bunnings, The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery all dragged the chain for overall customer satisfaction in 1 or more of the 8 product categories we surveyed,” she said.

Ms Chetwin singled out Harvey Norman and Freedom Furniture as especially lacklustre performers.

“Harvey Norman returned below-average results in 5 product categories: large appliances, home technology, computing, mobile technology, and furniture and bedding. Shoppers were also more likely to report encountering pushy salespeople at the store,” she said.

“Freedom Furniture’s performance was the worst of the lot, earning the lowest overall satisfaction score of any retailer in our survey – 44%. Our members were less likely to say Freedom offered competitive prices or top-class point-of-sale service.”

Top performers in the survey included 100% Appliances, which returned strong results in both the appliance and home technology aisles. More than 80% of those surveyed who purchased whiteware or a kitchen appliance from one of 100%’s franchises said they were very satisfied with the experience.

“Consumer members said 100% was better than other stores at providing expert advice about TVs, game consoles or home theatre systems, and less likely to have pushy staff,” Ms Chetwin said. 100% Appliances has People's Choice accreditation, along with Stihl Shop which once again earned an above-average satisfaction score.

Among big-box DIY stores, Mitre 10 had the edge on others when it came to expert advice and hassle-free returns and exchanges. Bunnings, PlaceMakers and The Warehouse all ranked below-average for satisfaction in this category.

Consumer NZ’s survey also covered optometrists and the results were crystal clear. Those who used an independent, local optometrist reported very high levels of satisfaction (82%), frequently saying they received good, friendly advice.

While optometry giant Specsavers was tops for price, it only scored 61% for overall satisfaction. One in 5 shoppers reported encountering a pushy salesperson at the optometry giant, while 13% of glasses purchased from Specsavers had to be returned because they weren’t of acceptable quality.

Ms Chetwin said the survey results would delight Apple fans.

“The online Apple Store dominated our technology categories, returning best or best-equal scores in computing, mobile and home tech,” she said.

Our top tips for smarter shopping

  • Don’t buy extended warranties: they sell you protection you’ve probably already got under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

  • If you don’t ask, you don’t get: leave your shyness at the door and you might be amazed at what salespeople will offer. Key questions to ask include “is that really your best price”, “when’s your next big sale”, and “do you offer display models for cheaper”?

  • Fire up price comparison websites: before you hit the shops, use price comparison websites such as priceme.co.nz or pricespy.co.nz to compare retailers and make sure you’re getting the best deal.

About our survey

Consumer NZ’s retailer satisfaction survey is based on responses from 7477 Consumer members. Members rated stores on measures such as point-of-sale service, price and range of products, and their perceptions of retailers (such as “do they have pushy salespeople?”).

More information is available in the full survey results.