Chester’s retailers celebrated their successes at the recent Chester Retail Awards which took place at the Town Hall on Tuesday, 5 March.
Over 40 city centre retailers attended to find out who among them had been awarded gold, silver and bronze place in three different categories.
Organised by Chester Renaissance, retailers were included in a Mystery Shopping programme carried out by leading experts Storecheckers, and sponsored by Chester City Management, Charisma and Chester Against Business Crime.
Each store that was mystery shopped was rated on the following areas – Branch Appearance, Products and Pricing, Security, Approach by Staff, Service, Sales, Staff Image, Overall Impression, and Town Centre Knowledge.
The results of the mystery shopping reports helped judges to pick the winners of this year’s competition:
Best Independent Retailer
- Gold: The Arc, Commonhall Street
- Silver: Corks Out, Watergate Street
- Bronze: Allisons, Chateau de Sable, Geoff Hughes Butchers, Tessuti & The Chester Cheese Shop
Best Small Multiple Retailer
- Gold: Zuger’s Tea Rooms, St John Street
- Silver: Dawsons Music Ltd, Pepper Street
- Bronze: Wesley Barrell, Watergate Row
Best Large Multiple
- Gold: Debenhams, Eastgate Street
- Silver: Lush, Foregate Street
- Bronze: Disney Store, Foregate Street
Chester’s Best Retailer
- The Arc, Commonhall Street
The Mystery Shopper and Awards programme is in its fourth year and Chester has performed consistently well and continues to be in the top quartile of assessed locations. Compared to last year those receiving a score of 90 per cent or higher overall was up by 8 per cent on last year’s results to 51 per cent.
Jeff Caplan, Managing Director Storecheckers added: “Chester’s performance has yet again topped the polls, by this year out performing many other Town Centres, stealing a march on its rivals in the Storecheckers 2012 Mystery Shopping Survey.
“Chester retailers have shown their determination to take every opportunity for THE sale, by showing their customers that they really do care. In the research, shops in Chester Town Centre improved performance in virtually every category, showing excellent product knowledge, and giving friendly and dedicated attention to their customers. A massive 85 per cent score was awarded for overall impression, a lift of 4 per cent from last year. And this success is further evidenced by a shop vacancy rate lower than the national average.
“It is both heart-warming and uplifting to see Chester fight hard for success in such a difficult climate, and to prove that this is possible with dedication and spirit.”
Diane Wehrle from Springboard, the organisation that collects and analyses footfall data for Chester city centre, spoke of the difficulties faced by retailers in the current economic climate.
Retailing is in the greatest period of change since the birth of the supermarket in the ’50s and ’60s. National footfall has dropped by 25 per cent since 2007 in a highly competitive trading environment.
However Chester’s data shows that it is performing well considering the current economic conditions.
The stores that remain successful are those with excellent customer service, those that link online trading with in-store visits and stores that generate customer loyalty through providing the very best shopping experience possible.
Diane commented “Chester has outperformed many other city centres in the country. It continues to have a lower than average decline in footfall and has steep rises at key times throughout the year.
“The consumer is changing and it’s up to retailers to respond by adopting mobile-commerce and recognising that the customer seeks best value, which is more than just the cheapest.”
Winner of Chester’s Best Retailer Award which recognises an outstanding shopping experience, Jan Arditti from The Arc, a fine craft gallery featuring the very best of British contemporary designers and makers, in Commonhall Street, said: “With so much bad news on the high-street, winning these awards has demonstrated the crucial role independent retailers play in offering choice, diversity and exceptional service in cities such as Chester, helping to keep the city vibrant and alive – to both residents and visitors.”
Councillor Samantha Dixon, Board member for Chester City Management and Chester Renaissance, presented the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards for Best Independent Retailer, said: “The event has been a great success and I am pleased to see Chester’s retailers recognised in this way.
“Chester has a unique and distinctive retail offer and plays a vital part in contributing to the economy of Chester and it is vital that in a highly competitive trading environment we support our high street traders.”