Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

UK survey claims WH Smith worst high street store

Mark Fletcher
May 30th, 2018 · 1 Comment

Which?, a 60 year old consumer survey and advocacy business ran a recent survey that resulted in WH Smith being named the worst high street retailer in the UK.

The challenge is that the survey results are not based on large numbers and the survey process itself is not ideal.

What is interesting to me is the considerable defence mounted by news outlets. Of course, they are conflicted in that WH Smith is a major retailer of their products.

In my own experience, WH Smith stores on the high street are uninteresting. They are destination stores for magazines, newspapers, books, greeting cards, candy and stationery. However, there are more interesting specialty retailers in each of these product categories.

The old department store approach of WH Smith has no future in retail today on the high street. In transit I think it has a place. On the high street,. however, supermarkets other specialty retailers and online have all made the old general store or mini department store uncompetitive and, as I noted, uninteresting.

All of us in retail need to have a unique selling proposition, USP, that draws shoppers in, something we stand for that is compelling and interesting. While some might argue that a USP is less relevant where convenience is a factor, on the high street convenience is not what it once was given the blurring of lines between retail business channels and online.

The other aspect of WH Smith that is uninteresting for me is the shop floor experience. There is little experience from what I can see. The stores are formatted and run for destination shopping. This sees less shopper interaction. The tone is set especially strong in  stores with self checkout. The subtle message of these is do it yourself because we are not here to help you.

There has been considerable media coverage in the UK about the survey. This is good as it leads to a discussion about the role of WH Smith and, by association, newsagency businesses. While some discussion I have seen has been uninformed, there have been interesting points from which those interested can learn.

For me, the survey is a reminder of the importance of … creating fresh and engaging shopper experiences, providing genuine and personal shop floor experiences, respecting your customers and being known as a destination store for products people like. This is not a complete list FYI.


Category: newsagency of the future

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Colin // May 30, 2018 at 8:36 AM

    Wh Smith is on a deliberate path to milk and close high street stores. Their sole concentration has for years been the travel division, shops located in airports and rail stations. High street shops are starved of investment, over priced and milked for profit with the company achieving targets and management being bonuses.

    For years there have online comments about the state of the high street stores. The state of carpets became had a cult following. This is not the first time WHS has come last in customer survey.

    Their actions are indicative of where they believe high Street newsagencies are headed…. Oblivion. Indeed, they are actively persuing it.


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