As the largest city in Cambridgeshire and one of the biggest in the UK, Peterborough is consistently ranked among the UK’s best cities for economic growth.
Our Mystery Shopper looked for a suitable tech-related gift for under £30 – let’s see how they got on...
9/10 – JOHN LEWIS
I battled my way through a forest of clothes and up several escalators. Finally, I spotted the distant technology section, despite the lack of hanging signs. However, once there, tech gifts were easy to find, with a selection of themed speakers on display for £10. Joining the novelty audio devices was a large rack of themed phone cases including accessories such as the Lego Builder case.
A dedicated gift aisle held even more treasures, with iPad arcade machine cases, emergency chargers and a remote control car among the neatly arranged hoard.
A lively helper approached me and offered his support, leading me to relevant products. He advised against a portable battery pack, but praised the quality and value of a mini Bluetooth speaker. He asked further details, such as the flexibility of my budget and the age, gender and interest of the recipient.
All around, it was an almost ideal gift-buying experience – and would’ve been perfect if the section had been easier to find.
9/10 – GAME
For a video game-centric store, Game held a surprising amount of diverse electronic gifts and treats for tech fans.
From presents for young gamers such as NFC- equipped Skylanders models – hitting my budget perfectly at £15 each, with a ‘three for two’ deal – to general tech gifts such as earphones, smartphone cases and non- electronic products such as football cards, the range was wide and well-priced enough to seemingly satisfy even the pickiest of gift buyers.
I asked at the till for some gift buying advice and the helper gestured towards some hats, models and data sticks based on the recently released game Watch Dogs.
He explained that Game stocks a wide range of merchandise for major video game titles, with branded products making a great choice for avid gamers.
With a fantastic range of fairly-priced products and helpful advice on how to grab a great gift for gamers, Game provided a top shopping experience.
7/10 – HMV
HMV seemed a promising place to find a present.
Shelves were lined with branded gifts, including Minecraft books, a foam pickaxe, stickers and models.
However, as I progressed deeper into the store, the shelves descended into a mess of boxes and packaging, with a heap of cases dumped on the floor under one rack.
Despite this, the tech section displayed a wide selection of headphones, cables and speakers; many of the boxes stickered with purple sale prices. The section was interactive, with demo products across the counters.
Far across the store, lots of gaming products (such as a £25 remote control Mario Kart) provided great gift ideas. However, this promising selection was undermined by four very messy crates piled with products next to the shelves.
I approached an employee, who was unsure what to advise as a gift. He was polite, but seemed as jumbled as the shelves. It was a shame, as a little more organisation would’ve scored a sale.
10/10 – MENKIND
Rows upon rows of kitsch gadgets and toys greeted me as I entered the tech gift specialist.
At the front of the store, several Bluetooth speakers on sale were highlighted as great presents, with other fun gifts such as smartphone cases, fake fish tanks, spy pens and portable batteries also stacked high on the shelves.
One corner of the store was dedicated to remote control vehicles, from boats to helicopters, while gaming gifts, such as portable retro handheld consoles, lined another rack.
I approached the counter, and was greeted by a friendly young staff member. He was extremely polite and lively as he happily led me around the store, picking out a fair selection of techy presents. He particularly recommended a portable battery or Bluetooth speakers, before picking out a handful which hit my budget exactly.
With a great range of engaging tech gifts, plus friendly staff, Menkind served my needs perfectly.
4/10 – TOYS ‘R’ US
I made my way through cluttered shelves and messy floors to the tech section of Toys ‘R’ Us – despite a flood of trollies attempting to block the store’s entrance.
Obviously, many of the gifts were kid-focused, with budget cameras and tablets in the ‘Teentronics’ area.
Skylanders and Disney Infinity each had an interactive stand for children to try out the models, and were joined by a bright selection of Lego LED Lites.
Smartphone and gaming accessories were also dotted about the area, with other themed tech such as Spider- Man headphones for superhero fans. A decent ‘App Toys’ section presented a range of products branded with popular apps such as Angry Birds and Minecraft.
I walked the entire store before spotting an assistant pushing a trolley. She clocked me and sped up, vanishing behind a row of toys with a rumble. After attempting to locate her again – and failing to find any other free staff in the entire shop – I followed her example, and disappeared.
5/10 – CURRYS/PC WORLD
Rows of products and plenty of staff raised my hopes as I stepped into the store.
I took a look at aisles of accessories, with products such as cases and notebook coolers ringing up at a budget-friendly £15.
The TV streamer aisle provided more gift ideas for the tech-savvy, with a USB TV dongle for £25 and the Google Chromecast for £30. But while there were plenty of tech products available, there was little indication as to what might actually make a suitable gift.
As I stood confused, I realised that six staff members had passed me without offering any help. One assistant, who had visited the burger van outside, was leaning against the customer service desk, chomping on a greasy bap.
I approached one helper, who admitted he didn’t know what to suggest. He finally said that speakers were a good idea, with one model easily under budget at £20, but failed to explain further.
Disheartened and let-down, I left the store empty-handed.
While Peterborough offered a wide variety of shops for those seeking a tech gift, a few failed to follow up on their range of general electronics, kids’ tech and branded gaming products with decent customer service and store organisation.
Buying gifts is not always easy for the shopper, so customer service can be key to securing a sale – as well as a return visit.
Unfortunately, several of the stores I visited could offer little beyond a selection of products, leaving me struggling to pick an ideal tech gift.
Interestingly, Game – a store that many consumers may consider only for gaming fans – had one of the best ranges of gifts on offer, with general tech, accessories and non-electronic merchandise all available for prices well within my budget of £30.
Sadly, while Currys and PC World had one of the widest selections of technology in-store, the poor customer service – particularly that bap-munching employee – left me hungry for more.
Unsurprisingly, Menkind shone as an outlet for those seeking electronic presents, with a massive range of kitsch and novelty tech toys as well as functional accessories and devices. The staff were engaging and clearly knew their stuff, quickly pointing me to the most suitable products – a level of in-store service all firms should aspire to.
While not all tech stores cannot afford the retail space to specifically feature a gift section, the difficulty I faced while searching for a present highlights something that all shops can work on – customer service.
After all, the greatest gift you can give your customers is a reason to come back.