Mystery Shopper: London's West End

Our Mystery Shopper visits London’s iconic West End in search of a MacBook Air with a budget of £800-1,000
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Our Mystery Shopper visits London’s iconic West End, home to numerous flagship stores and attracting shoppers from all over the world, in search of a MacBook Air with a budget of £800-1,000.

Selfridges – 5/10

After seeking some guidance from a member of staff at customer services, I am directed down into the basement where all the tech items – from laptops to TVs to spy pens – are located. 

This iconic retailer is not renowned for its technology or electronics, but with a large section on the lower level and an adventurous feeling, I decide to take my chances. 

Entering the department, I ask for further assistance from a security guard as to where the MacBook Airs and other Apple devices are located. 

I am directed over to a Stormfront store-in-store which looks like a slightly mishapen Apple store. After that point, there is no more assistance and I am left to my own devices. 

Only the top of the range MacBooks Airs are on display here. The cheapest costs £849 and is a 13-inch. I look to see if anyone is around to provide me with any assistance or advice but to no avail. With no-one around I’m left feeling underwhelmed, unimpressed and disappointed with the entire experience.

Currys PC World – 6/10

It does not take me very long to attract the attention of a very friendly shop assistant who is more than happy to offer me any help and advice. I tell the sales associate that I am looking for a MacBook Air and I have a price range of £800-1000. I am concerned then when the first thing they talk about is purchasing a beefed up iCloud storage package. 

“You’ll need this package if you want to save any documents or images,’’ then the prices directly follow. Trying to get back on track, I quickly divert the conversation to the different MacBook options.

The 11-inch looks good and is at the bottom end of my budget. I am keen to find out more and I’m told that it comes with 256 GB of storage at £764.

That’s the most about the device as I’ll get out of the assistant who is quick thereafter to offer me a Microsoft Office 365 package. Enthusastic staff, but far too much time was spent selling subscriptions instead of the product I want.

Electronics Outlet – 6/10

Within seconds of entering the store and striking up a conversation with the shop assistant – who is determined to tell me why I shouldn’t be purchasing a MacBook – I know that this will not be the best place to buy the particular MacBook Air that I am looking for. 

An 11-inch MacBook for £650 is the best the store could do. I am instead told I would be better off getting a 15.6-inch Lenovo which comes with 1TB of storage at a much cheaper price than even a refurbished MacBook. 

This level of honesty is something that I would not expect to find elsewhere in the area and it is exemplary of why people have such strong faith in indies. 

In contrast to a lot of major retailers, the shop assistant here is not trying to push one product in particular. I feel reassured as a customer that I will be able to walk away with the best product at a reasonable price.

Even though I did not find a MacBook Air here, I am impressed by the refreshing honesty from the staff.

Argos – 7/10

Argos has drastically changed its practices and image in the past few years. I was mistaken in expecting paper catalogues, pens and smiling sales assistants. Instead, I am met by a touchscreen catalogue that shows me an array of MacBooks Airs from which I can.

At the very top of my budget is a 13-inch, 256 GB MacBook Air. At the lower end is the 11.6 inch model with 128 GB of flash storage. 

The range to choose from is impressive, but some of the MacBooks are ‘delivery only’. If I was planning to purchase on the spot, I would have to choose from one of the few models that are actually available in-store. 

This store has done well to shake itself up in order appeal to the e-commerce shopper, employing a model closer to click-and-collect. It is no longer a standard bricks and mortar store, instead it is something that has moved with the times for customers to experience something of a hybrid between online shopping, and doing it the ‘old fashioned’ way.

Summary

The West End is a vibrant consumer destination where roads like Regent Street, Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street draw hundreds of thousands of shoppers every year.

Perhaps it is the more tourist-centric nature of the area that made tracking down a reasonably priced MacBook Air difficult. The lack of staff interaction in Selfridges’ technology department was lacklustre, considering how bustling the store itself is. Argos had the best selection of MacBook Airs, but depended too much on touchscreen catalogues and not enough on quality customer service. 

Currys PC World also had a good selection, but the staff member’s ‘sell, sell, sell’ attitude was more than enough to put me off. It was only when I arrived at the independently run Electronics Outlet that I was shown a good level of customer service – despite not even having the item I wanted in stock.

Apple is a name synonymous with the high street, so I was more than a little disappointed by the lack of options in the West End when it came to MacBook Airs.

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