Our survey harnesses the power of more than 7000 Consumer members to reveal New Zealand’s best and worst retailers.
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Harvey Norman. Noel Leeming. Godfreys. PlaceMakers. Bunnings. The Warehouse. Warehouse Stationery. These chains have heaps in common: they boast dozens of near-identical stores dotted all over the country and offer a dazzling array of products, usually at highly competitive prices. And they’re all dragging the chain when it comes to keeping their customers happy.
We asked about your forays into the retail jungle over the past year, and these stores ranked below-average for overall customer satisfaction in one or more of the 8 categories covered by our survey. In fact, the only big-box retailer to return above-average results was hardware giant Mitre 10. Generally, if you want a pleasant shopping experience, choose smaller, local or specialist stores.
A big thanks to the 7477 Consumer members who completed our satisfaction survey.
We asked members to rate stores on measures such as product range and price, delivery, point-of-sale and after-sale service. We also asked about perceptions of retailers (such as “are they an expert?” and “do they have pushy salespeople?”) and gathered data about their purchase (such as “were you offered an extended warranty?”).
We only analysed results for retailers that received 30 or more responses in a category (the number of responses is shown in the tables). We used a 0 to 10-point scale where a score of 8 to 10 reflected “very satisfied”, “very likely to recommend” or “strongly agree with the statement”. Only statistically significant results are highlighted in our tables. We’ve marked a retailer as above (green) or below average (red) if their “overall satisfaction” scores are significantly above or below the category average.
GUIDE TO THE TABLES Numbers in brackets show how many purchases were reported in the survey. Only retailers with 30 or more sales are analysed. OVERALL SATISFACTION shows the percentage who rated the retailer 8, 9 or 10.
In our survey, the world of hardware, building and garden equipment is a tale of 2 retailers. Four out of every 5 purchases by our DIY-loving members were made at Mitre 10 or Bunnings. But Mitre 10 smoked other stores when it came to prompt, expert advice, having a wide range of the latest gear in-store, and hassle-free returns and exchanges.
Bunnings, PlaceMakers and The Warehouse all ranked below average for overall satisfaction, though respondents were more likely than average to be very satisfied with Bunnings’ prices.
PlaceMakers stood out for all the wrong reasons. About 1 in 10 members said they were dissatisfied with its high prices and limited range of products in-store.
Outdoor power gear specialists Stihl Shop also had lots of happy campers. They liked the lack of pushy salespeople and rated the staff’s expert advice. As with Apple Store, this result is likely tied to the high quality of its stock: Stihl products consistently return top marks in our product tests and satisfaction surveys.
Trade Tested touts itself as “New Zealand’s favourite online outdoor hardware shop”. Members rated its rock-bottom prices and reported few issues with the online ordering process. However, there were a few grumbles about its return and exchange process. One member who bought a shoddy garden shed said he had to “threaten them with legal action” to get a replacement.
|Stihl Shop (86)||79%|
|Trade Tested (36)||72%|
|Mitre 10 (1359)||71%|
|The Warehouse (50)||54%|
If your laundry or kitchen is crying out for new gear, many of our members reckon you can’t go past 100% Appliances. More than 80% of those who purchased whiteware or a cooking or small kitchen appliance from one of its franchises said they were very satisfied with the experience.
Survey respondents were more likely to say salespeople at 100% knew what they’re talking about and were less likely to try the hard sell or flog unneeded extras such as extended warranties. They also rated its range of products and competitive prices, and were more likely to report hassle-free returns and exchanges.
Waikato’s Heathcote Appliances earns an honourable mention with the best-equal satisfaction score in the small appliance (kitchen and laundry) category. While it only has bricks and mortar stores in Hamilton, Te Awamutu and Morrinsville, it does a roaring trade online.
40% of members who purchased small appliances from Heathcote used its online store, and they were generally happy with the ordering and delivery process. If you’re searching for a product online and find Heathcote’s has the lowest price, don’t be scared to load up the cart.
The majority of members who purchased a large whiteware or cooking appliance in the past year did so at either Harvey Norman or Noel Leeming. The bad news is customers of both stores were significantly less likely to be satisfied with their in-store experience.
Customers of both retailers were less likely to say staff were experts in the products they were selling. They also reported Harvey Norman and Noel Leeming were keener to sell them extended warranties. In our view, extended warranties are bunk as you’re already covered under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) if things go wrong.
Kitchen Things staff were kept busy with after-sales issues to resolve. Fourteen percent of respondents who purchased a large whiteware or cooking appliance from this retailer had to contact the store after purchase because the product wasn’t of acceptable quality. Among small appliance retailers, Godfreys also stood out for all the wrong reasons. Godfreys talks itself up as New Zealand’s vacuum cleaner expert, but our members were more likely to say staff were pushy, and less likely to recommend the store to others. Even worse was Godfreys was less likely to offer what respondents perceived as a good price.
|100% Appliances (217)||86%|
|Magness Benrow (36)||81%|
|Heathcote Appliances (67)||78%|
|Appliance Shed (92)||73%|
|Smiths City (175)||71%|
|Kitchen Things (148)||68%|
|Harvey Norman (844)||64%|
|Noel Leeming (538)||62%|
|100% Appliances (96)||83%|
|Heathcote Appliances (53)||83%|
|Smiths City (96)||67%|
|Appliance Shed (36)||67%|
|Mitre 10 (49)||63%|
|Noel Leeming (706)||60%|
|Harvey Norman (638)||59%|
|JB HI-FI (60)||58%|
|The Warehouse (114)||58%|
If you’re after a new TV or buying a games console for a lucky relative this Christmas, you’re more likely to get expert advice at 100% Appliances than other stores. Members were also less likely to say 100% had pushy staff in the home tech department, compared with 1 in 3 Harvey Norman customers who agree its salespeople like to deploy the hard sell.
The Apple Store, with its popular Apple TV digital media player, was also a fan-favourite in this category. Note: New Zealand has no physical Apple Store; these ratings refer to purchases via its online shop.
|100% Appliances (55)||78%|
|Apple Store (41)||78%|
|Warehouse Stationery (30)||67%|
|Spark Store (30)||63%|
|JB HI-FI (195)||63%|
|The Warehouse (101)||62%|
|Noel Leeming (815)||62%|
|Smiths City (57)||61%|
|PB Technologies (189)||61%|
|Harvey Norman (459)||57%|
Among smartphone retailers, only one outfit really shone. The Apple Store clocked an overall satisfaction of 85% in this category. We weren’t surprised, given iPhones and iPads consistently rate highly in our mobile phone and tablet tests.
Our members were more likely than average to rate Spark or Vodafone stores and PB Tech as experts compared with The Warehouse, Warehouse Stationery, Noel Leeming or Harvey Norman. Less than half of those who visited these stores were likely to strongly agree they offered expert advice in the smartphone aisle.
Harvey Norman and The Warehouse were the laggards in the mobile category overall – both rated below average for their point-of-sale service.
|Apple Store (101)||85%|
|PB Technologies (177)||66%|
|JB HI-FI (116)||64%|
|Noel Leeming (633)||62%|
|Spark Store (429)||60%|
|Vodafone Store (265)||59%|
|2 Degrees Store (148)||59%|
|Warehouse Stationery (75)||55%|
|Harvey Norman (194)||50%|
|The Warehouse (88)||49%|
The online Apple Store continues its rampage across our 3 technology categories; it’s the only computing retailer with significantly higher-than-average satisfaction overall. As with mobile phones and tablets, this may be a function of the consistently good performance of its iMac and MacBook range of desktop and laptop computers in our tests.
If you’re in the market for a PC, our members also reckon PB Tech and Dell.co.nz are better at offering expert advice than Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming, Warehouse Stationery or JB Hi-Fi.
|Apple Store (61)||89%|
|PB Technologies (391)||66%|
|JB HI-FI (79)||59%|
|Noel Leeming (361)||59%|
|Harvey Norman (194)||57%|
|Warehouse Stationery (182)||53%|
Beds R Us was the only bedding retailer with significantly above-average overall satisfaction. Respondents thought its staff gave good advice and they also liked its prompt and hassle-free delivery process.
At the other end of the scale, Harvey Norman returned below-par results. Members were more likely to encounter pushy salespeople, and were less likely to be satisfied with the delivery process.
Freedom Furniture’s performance was also lacklustre, with the store earning below-average satisfaction overall. Those surveyed reckoned Freedom Furniture was less likely to offer attractive prices and top-notch point-of-sale service.
|Beds R Us (112)||81%|
|The Warehouse (57)||70%|
|Bed Bath and Beyond (83)||70%|
|Smiths City (116)||68%|
|Target Furniture (40)||65%|
|Big Save (105)||65%|
|Harvey Norman (239)||56%|
|Freedom Furniture (43)||44%|
Bespectacled members who used an independent local optometrist reported very high levels of satisfaction, and frequently said they received good, friendly advice. Respondents said their local outfit was also more likely to offer a wide range of the latest eyewear, plus hassle-free returns and exchanges.
However, members were much more likely to say they got a good price at Specsavers than elsewhere, though this was the only area the optometry giant performed well. It earned below-average satisfaction scores for range of products and point-of-sale service. One in 5 shoppers felt staff were pushy. Members were also less likely to be satisfied with the store’s expertise.
Adding insult to injury, 13% of glasses purchased by members from Specsavers had to be returned because they weren’t of acceptable quality (for example, the prescription was wrong or the frames were faulty), significantly more than any other store.
Of the other big optometry names, Visique returned the best results, rating highly for service and expert advice, though not quite up there with local independents. OPSM was below-average in the satisfaction stakes.
|Local optometrists (897)||82%|
These results are from our 2016 survey.
More than any other category, shopping for sports equipment was likely to be done at a smaller local store — 35% of purchases were made at retailers with fewer than 30 sales reported.
As a group, they performed well, posting above-average numbers across all key measures. Customers were less likely to point to their prices as a reason for shopping with them, in fact they were more likely to pay full price at these stores. But they praised their reputation and friendly and helpful staff.
|Retailers||Overall satisfaction||Would recommend|
|Torpedo 7 (80)||75%||79%|
|No.1 Fitness (37)||70%||65%|
|Elite Fitness (54)||67%||61%|
|Hunting & Fishing (44)||61%||60%|
|Stirling Sports (36)||61%||54%|
|The Warehouse (49)||59%||57%|
|Bike Barn (31)||55%||48%|
|Rebel Sport (225)||50%||49%|
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.