THE Yorkshire supermarket chain Morrisons was mounting a hurried charm offensive last night after a survey of customers placed it dead last in a list of the country’s best and worst shops.
The consumers’ group Which? said it had polled more than 10,000 people about their experiences at 100 of the biggest retailers, and had rated them in order of satisfaction and the likelihood of a recommendation to someone else.
Morrisons scored 55 out of a possible 100 in the Which? poll, with shoppers describing it as “limited”.
Pressed for more detail on the report, which it publishes today, Which? quoted one shopper as complaining that “it would be good to see more of a range of household stuff”.
The supermarket polled one point lower than WH Smith and behind both Poundland and Poundstretcher. Rival supermarkets Tesco and Sainsburys also fared badly, sharing 88th place with 62 per cent.
Which said later that the survey reflected only non-food items.
The bad publicity surrounding the billionaire Sir Philip Green, former owner of the collapsed BHS chain, may have contributed to the poor showing of his other businesses, Top Shop and Top Man, which also polled a satisfaction rating of only 62 per cent.
The mobile phone retailers Vodafone and EE also proved unpopular, but the greetings card sector was split, with the Wakefield-based Card Factory at ninth place and rival Clinton Cards 13th from bottom.
At the top of the list, the hi-fi retailer Richer Sounds and do-it-yourself business Toolstation were marginally ahead of Harvey Nichols, John Lewis, Waterstones and the Apple shop.
The Newcastle-based department store Fenwick, which has a branch in York, was rated second in the cosmetics sector, winning praise for its “range of products, staff knowledge and customer service”.
Richard Headland, editor of Which? magazine, said the best retailers had struck the right balance by selling “quality products at reasonable prices”.
He added: “It’s a simple formula, but that’s why they consistently score well with shoppers in the Which? survey.”
However, Morrisons was not accepting the results without a fight. The Bradford-based chain has seen its fortunes improve in the two years since David Potts arrived from Tesco to succeed Dalton Philips as chief executive, and this week it was reported to have bowed to shareholder pressure and increased his maximum salary package to £5.3m.
A source within the company told The Yorkshire Post that it had “queried” the findings with Which? especially as the organisation had recently rated it the “most improved supermarket” with customers.
Morrisons is understood to be especially unhappy with the size of the sample used by Which? as despite the overall pool of 10,000, only 153 expressed a view on its stores.
The firm’s public relations director Julian Bailey said: “Another survey from Which? found that we were the most improved supermarket in the UK, so we are baffled by these results, which are based on a very small number of responses.”
Privately, the firm said it “had to listen” to the results of the survey but insisted it was at odds with its own data, which indicated that customer satisfaction was at its highest level for some years.
The retail industry analyst Kantar Worldpanel currently lists Morrisons as the fastest growing of the big four supermarkets, and credits its “The Best” range as attracting more affluent shoppers, alongside its traditional, working-class base in the north.
The store is in the process of “upgrading” some of its supermarkets, and said it had not been told how many of the 153 Which? comments had come from shoppers at its older branches.
Two months ago, in a set of results which analysts said would have made its late boss, Sir Ken Morrison, “very happy”, the company posted a like-for-like sales increase of 2.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year. All the big supermarkets are fighting a rearguard offensive against the growth of the German-owned discount chains Aldi and Lidl.
CLARIFICATION: Which? has since issued the following statement: “We issued a press notice entitled ‘Which? reveals the best and worst high street shops’. In that press notice we omitted some information that explained the survey was based only on customers’ experiences of purchasing non food items. Any supermarkets included in the results are only included in relation to their non food items.”
These are the shops at the top of the Which? report, with their “satisfaction scores”...
Richer Sounds – 80%
Harvey Nichols 79%
John Lewis 79%
The Perfume Shop 77%
Card Factory 76%
And these are the bottom 10:
WH Smith 56%