No one says shopping needs to be fun, but it shouldn’t be an exercise in salesperson avoidance. We reveal which retailers rate best for customer satisfaction, based on our members’ purchases made at 32 stores over the past year.
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When we give up our hard-earned cash, the shopping experience should be pleasant – or painless at the very least. Staff should know their onions, but not apply too much pressure. We want a good deal, but not at the expense of stellar support if our purchase turns out to be a dud.
Unfortunately, that’s too much to ask for many retail chains, according to our latest member satisfaction survey. Some stores, such as The Warehouse, spread themselves too thin and don’t excel in any area. Other specialists, such as PlaceMakers and Specsavers, only have one job to do but still fall short.
However, our members identified some stores worth dusting off your wallet for: 100% Appliances and the Apple Store top multiple categories, while Beds R Us and Kitchen Things stood out in their respective niches.
A big thanks to our members who provided information on more than 13,000 purchases made at 32 stores over the past year. Stores were rated for overall satisfaction, as well as measures such as product range and price, point-of-sale and after-sale service. We also asked how people perceived retailers and why they bought from the shops they did. Finally, we gathered data on the purchase itself, including whether it was discounted and whether an extended warranty was offered.
We only analysed retailers that received at least 30 responses in a category. We used a 0- to 10-point scale, where a score of eight or higher corresponded to “very satisfied” or “strongly agree”. Only statistically significant results are highlighted in our tables. Retailers are marked as above (green) or below (red) average. More responses for a brand means better confidence in the numbers, making significance more likely.
GUIDE TO THE TABLES OUR SURVEY was conducted in October 2018. Numbers in brackets show how many purchases were reported in the survey. Only retailers with 30 or more sales were analysed.
You’re in luck if you need new whiteware for your home in Auckland. Significantly more shoppers than average (91%) were very satisfied with Magness Benrow (part of the 100% Appliances group). But don’t despair if you live elsewhere: Kitchen Things and the rest of the 100% Appliances group hold up well too.
It’s a similar story for small appliances, a category that includes kitchen gadgets such as toasters and blenders as well as vacuum cleaners and steam mops: 100% Appliances triumphs again (we didn’t get enough responses to analyse Magness Benrow separately).
According to our members, product expertise is important for large appliance stores – stores with the most satisfied customers were more likely to know their stuff. Three-quarters of Magness Benrow, Kitchen Things and 100% Appliances customers strongly agreed they’re “experts in large appliances”, compared to half of large appliance shoppers on average. Farmers (24%) recorded the lowest large-appliance expertise.
Three-quarters of large and small appliances were bought at a discounted price. Two stores stand out for their regular “sales”: Briscoes and Farmers. If you have to shop at these stores during one of their rare full-price periods, ask for a discount – you can guarantee the product will be on sale again soon. If you’re caught out and the item goes on sale shortly after you bought it, take the receipt back and ask for a refund of the difference.
|Retailer||Satisfaction||Expertise||Didn't offer extended warranty|
|Magness Benrow (32)||91%||78%||84%|
|Heathcote Appliances (47)||85%||66%||70%|
|Kitchen Things (105)||84%||71%||81%|
|100% Appliances (174)||82%||69%||64%|
|Smiths City (118)||72%||40%||32%|
|Harvey Norman (571)||70%||45%||32%|
|Noel Leeming (354)||68%||46%||24%|
|Retailer||Satisfaction||Expertise||Satisfied with product range|
|Heathcote Appliances (32)||81%||44%||59%|
|100% Appliances (88)||80%||52%||65%|
|Smiths City (70)||73%||34%||50%|
|JB Hi-Fi (48)||71%||17%||42%|
|Mitre 10 (35)||69%||20%||49%|
|Harvey Norman (440)||65%||36%||61%|
|Noel Leeming (489)||63%||30%||54%|
|The Warehouse (105)||60%||5%||30%|
Home technology includes large devices such as televisions, and saw another strong result for 100% Appliances. It shows the power of treating customers well: it posts above average satisfaction and its customers were more likely to come back for more – two-thirds of them chose the store because of a previous good experience. It’s the only store that rated above average for satisfaction, with customers particularly taken with its prices and point-of-sale service. At the other extreme, The Warehouse struggled to impress, recording low satisfaction across its range of products and worse-than-average point-of-sale service.
The Apple Store stood head and shoulders above the others, with 83% of mobile technology and 88% of computing customers “very satisfied”. Buying directly from the manufacturer assured customers the company knew what it was doing – only two members that bought computers didn’t see Apple, the largest tech company in the world, as a computing expert. Fewer Apple customers than average were satisfied with the price, and products were rarely bought on sale or with a discount.
Last year Harvey Norman was rock-bottom in our survey – scoring below-average satisfaction in five categories. This year it’s dragged itself out of the discount bin – customers were now averagely satisfied in all categories except large appliances (those customers were still less satisfied than average).
|Retailer||Satisfaction||Service||Didn't offer extended warranty|
|100% Appliances (48)||85%||85%||92%|
|PB Technologies (71)||66%||51%||70%|
|Noel Leeming (344)||65%||59%||39%|
|Harvey Norman (233)||64%||59%||33%|
|JB Hi-Fi (80)||63%||53%||72%|
|The Warehouse (48)||54%||43%||81%|
|Retailer||Satisfaction||Expertise||Convenient to shop online|
|Apple Store (114)||83%||93%||51%|
|PB Technologies (130)||62%||58%||12%|
|Harvey Norman (144)||60%||42%||2%|
|Spark Store (318)||60%||65%||6%|
|JB Hi-Fi (113)||59%||31%||4%|
|Noel Leeming (547)||59%||36%||4%|
|Vodafone Store (229)||59%||58%||4%|
|Warehouse Stationery (54)||54%||13%||9%|
|Retailer||Satisfaction||Expertise||Item was on sale|
|Apple Store (59)||88%||97%||19%|
|PB Technologies (251)||71%||71%||46%|
|JB Hi-Fi (64)||64%||31%||66%|
|Harvey Norman (166)||63%||43%||64%|
|Noel Leeming (309)||60%||39%||61%|
|Warehouse Stationery (122)||52%||20%||67%|
In last year’s survey, Beds R Us was the best of the furniture retailers, with 81 percent satisfaction. This year it had even more very satisfied customers – 88% overall. Buying a bed can be a tricky and costly decision, so Beds R Us customers valued the store’s expertise, point-of-sale service and helpful staff more than price and scoring a discount. No furniture stores stood out as ones to avoid, but watch out for extended warranties at Big Save Furniture – a quarter of customers said they were offered one.
|Beds R Us (74)||88%||65%||87%|
|Bed Bath and Beyond (72)||65%||38%||63%|
|The Warehouse (34)||65%||3%||31%|
|Smiths City (72)||63%||49%||66%|
|Harvey Norman (169)||62%||52%||63%|
|Big Save (68)||56%||53%||54%|
Furniture is often bulky, and almost three-quarters of purchases in our survey were delivered. How do the stores fare?
If you’re after hardware or garden equipment, it’s likely you’re heading to Mitre10 or Bunnings – eight out of 10 purchases in our survey were from one of those two retailers. There’s nothing to separate them for overall satisfaction – both are average. However, Mitre10 customers were more satisfied with its range of products and point-of-sale service, whereas Bunnings customers liked the prices.
PlaceMakers propped up the category for the second year running, recording just 47 percent of customers “very satisfied” and 14 percent “dissatisfied”. Fewer customers than average were satisfied with either the range or price of products in the store.
|Stihl Shop (45)||76%||82%|
|Trade Tested (30)||73%||23%|
|Mitre 10 (848)||68%||65%|
If you need new glasses, our survey points you to independent local optometrists. In a repeat of last year’s results, they stood out for very high overall satisfaction (79% “very satisfied”). Respondents were more likely to say they offered a wide range of eyewear and provided very satisfying point-of-sale service. Small local optometrists were unlikely to offer the cheapest price or discounts, but were seen as experts with helpful staff – more purchases than average were reported from repeat customers.
The antithesis to the independent local optometrist is Specsavers. More members were satisfied that they saved on their specs, but fewer than average were satisfied with the overall experience – the product range wasn’t as good and staff weren’t as helpful. Eight percent of customers were dissatisfied with the store. Maybe they shouldn’t have gone to Specsavers?
One in 10 eyewear buyers returned the product because it wasn’t of acceptable quality or was faulty. That was twice as many returns (proportionally) than in any other category we surveyed. Of those customers, eight in 10 had their eyewear replaced or repaired at no cost.
|Retailer||Satisfaction||Service||Item was on sale|
|Local optometrists (717)||79%||83%||7%|
|Paterson Burn Optometrists (30)||70%||80%||13%|
The golden rule echoed by all our retail gurus was, “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. Some key questions that often yield useful answers include:
Price comparison websites, such as priceme.co.nz and pricespy.co.nz, are useful tools when you’re hunting for a deal. They let you compare prices across a range of retailers before you hit the shops. Both websites also allow you to set up price alerts for when an item goes on special or drops below a certain price, a great option if a purchase isn’t time-critical.
Our survey found most members knew not to fall for extended warranties. They largely sell you protection you’re already entitled to for free under the CGA. But we’ll say it again: don’t buy extended warranties.