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.
Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says its latest retailer satisfaction survey found smaller players often out-performed 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 one or more of the eight product categories we surveyed,” she says.
Sue singled out Harvey Norman and Freedom Furniture as especially lacklustre performers.
“Harvey Norman returned below-average results in five product categories: large appliances, home technology, computing, mobile technology and furniture and bedding,” she says.
“Shoppers were also more likely to report encountering pushy salespeople at the store.
“Freedom Furniture's performance was the worst of the lot, earning the lowest overall satisfaction score of any retailer in our survey at 44 per cent.
“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 per cent of those surveyed who purchased white ware 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,” says Sue.
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 per cent), frequently saying they received good, friendly advice.
While optometry giant Specsavers was tops for price, it only scored 61 per cent for overall satisfaction.
One in five shoppers reported encountering a pushy salesperson at the optometry giant, while 13 per cent of glasses purchased from Specsavers had to be returned because they weren't of acceptable quality.
Sue says 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 says. Consumer NZ's 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. For full survey results visit: consumer.org.nz or the December-January issue of Consumer magazine.