Independent shops are seeing a revival, because customers start to rebel against impersonal big chains and self-service checkouts.
The ‘outstanding’ personal service and advice from expert staff in smaller shops have helped them to become the leaders of consumers’ preferences. For the first time since Which? started their annual High Street Shopper Survey, independent shops have managed to occupy the third position in the national TOP-10.
These included DIY and decorating outlets, baby and child stores and cosmetics and toiletries shops.
Surprisingly, independent DIY and decorating stores saw the biggest popularity boost, climbing 84 places since last year.
Which? explains: “Although independent stores vary widely in the type of products that they sell as well as in their atmosphere, they seem to have one thing in common – good or even outstanding customer service.
Shoppers can’t resist personal attention, friendly and knowledgeable staff in independent DIY stores and value the unique items, like toys.
At the same time, customers revealed their real attitude to new technologies in retail: they say, that using automated self-service tills, recently introduced in bug retail chains, is irritating and even scary.
This move has been backed by consumer groups who argue businesses looking for customer loyalty must deliver real service, rather than relying on automated tills and confusing computerized systems.
Proving how much customers value the personal touch, the nation’s top retailer was natural beauty products chain Lush. Shoppers said they loved the helpful staff and the ethics of the company, which insists on using natural ingredients that are not tested on animals.
A close second was John Lewis, which has thrived during the recession largely because of its commitment to service by the staff who own the business and share in its success through an annual profit sharing scheme.
At the other end of the spectrum were EE mobile phone network shops, which have replaced ‘untidy’ and ‘cluttered’
Richard Headland, the editor of Which? magazine, said: ‘Thus year our survey proved that that a big name isn’t everything, as consumers look for quality in both products and service. If retailers can get their products right, along with excellent customer service and a great shopping environment, customers will keep coming back through their doors.’