WHat the Smith?

29 May 2018 | Liz Bowen

It’s fair to say that 2018 has not been a great year so far for the British High Street.

From Toys ‘R’ Us to Maplin, Mothercare to New Look and even the mainstay of British culture, Marks & Spencer, a number of our biggest retailers have either gone into administration or announced they are closing stores throughout the country.

With the rise (and ease) of online shopping, for years the High Street has been battling against falling sales and a decrease in popularity. Over the last several years, campaigns like #BuyLocal, #ShopLocal and have become as synonymous with our shopping experience as Markle and Sparkle itself.

The last thing a retailer needs then is bad PR…

Spare a thought then for WH Smith. Far from encouraging shoppers through its doors, the company has once again been revealed as the bottom-rated retailer on the UK High Street in a consumer survey carried out by Which?

The survey asked over 10,000 consumers for their thoughts on around 100 retailers, including their experience of buying non-grocery items, satisfaction levels and the likelihood of them recommending a shop.

While WH Smith has claimed that despite it serving 12m customers each week, only 184 actually commented on its performance in the survey, unfortunately for the company it’s not the first time it’s found itself low in the rankings – it’s actually the eighth year running…

If the stats weren’t bad enough, in a further PR nightmare for the retailer, it’s also the subject of a somewhat less-than-complimentary parody Twitter account called WH Carpet, via which its more than 12,000 followers share their not-so-wonderful shopping experiences.

For a company that relies on consumers for its success, such results and the subsequent headlines, don’t do much for its reputation.

Yet in today’s increasingly digitised society, in which we are now more reliant than ever on what we can find online, what can retailers do to survive?

It really is an ongoing, and seemingly, everlasting battle in which bad PR and negative headlines have a potentially lasting make or break effect.

With all the recent headlines, it’s a waiting game to see what happens next on the High Street. Having survived such survey results for the last eight years, we’ll just have to wait and see how WH Smith fares over the next few months.