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Catherine Furze

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct scores bottom place for customer service

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct is bottom of the league in a recent survey of the best and worst sports and outdoor shops.

The former Newcastle United owner's chain, which he founded in 1982 and now has over 400 stores, got just two out of five stars for staff helpfulness and knowledge as well as aftersales service and returns in a poll of over 10,000 shoppers carried out by consumer champion Which?

Although customers said they liked the range and availability of its products, Sports Direct's stores and on-store service came under fire, with one customer noting: "Shopping in a Sports Direct is an ordeal. Their stores are so messy," and another saying: "Sports Direct stock many items at their store and generally at very reasonable prices. However their in-store service is very poor and the layout of the store is exceptionally messy."

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Mr Ashley, who bought Newcastle United in 2007 and sold it to a consortium led by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund in 2021, stepped down from his expansive retail group, Frasers, last year, but he is by no means out of the picture as he is still the group's controlling shareholder with a stake of nearly 70%. Late last year, Frasers recorded surging pre-tax profits of £284.6 million, in part due to high-profile acquisitions such as Missguided and Studio Retail and management at the business said more takeovers could be on the cards over the coming months as competitors come face-to-face with a tightening economy.

Another of Fraser Group's businesses, Evans Cycles, which was bought out of administration in 2018, is also at the bottom of the table, with one Evans Cycles customer saying: "Poor parts choice and service. Slow communication and low level of staff knowledge. Basic service jobs done well and workmanship acceptable."

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley stepped down as CEO from Frasers Group last year (PA)

Frasers Group was previously known as Sports Direct International before it acquired the House of Fraser department store chain in 2018. While Mr Ashley no longer owns Newcastle United, much to the joy of most fans, he still has a huge presence in the North East, due to the brands and stores his group owns.

Top of Which?'s list is Rohan, followed by Very with John Lewis third. Which? sampled 26 sports stores and ranked them according to a number of criteria, including value for money, product range, quality, staff knowledge, delivery and aftersales service and returns.

Rohen got five stars for everything except value for money and delivery. One happy shopper said: "They always give good service whether online or in a store. They are amazingly helpful in store – they are enthusiastic outdoor people and know their stock, plus have good training. They have also phoned other stores to find products they don't have in my size and arranged to get them. They bring different sizes to you to try on. Compare this to some clothing chains who don't even want to take your money never mind answer questions or look for stock for you because they are too busy chatting to each other."

Very came second place in the table, including an impressive five stars for value for money. One shopper said: "Very is my go-to shop. I love it. Always has what I need at a great price." Marks & Spencer, Costco and TK Maxx also achieved five stars for value for money.

John Lewis, which comes third overall, got four stars for value for money. Sports Direct scored three out of five for both value for money and product quality, while Evans Cycles scored four out of five for both.

Six in 10 shoppers buying outdoor and sports equipment in the six months to the end of September 2022 noticed prices going up – and around one in five said prices had gone up 'a lot'*, which resulted in them buying fewer items and shopping around before they purchased.

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