Auckland rates poorly for shopper satisfaction, particularly during the lead-up to Christmas, according to the Customer Radar study released today.
The study, which surveyed operations of 1500 stores across New Zealand for six months, found shoppers started to become disgruntled from the middle of November and overall customer satisfaction dropped sharply to a year-low in the middle of December.
Customer Radar chief executive Mat Wylie said customers were now after a better shopping experience rather than low prices - this was especially true in Auckland where overall customer satisfaction was found to be the lowest in the country.
"Staff engagement rated higher than price which is quite astonishing," Wylie said.
"Auckland tends to rate lower than the rest of the country, in general, and the drivers behind that are that Aucklanders seem to be more time-poor, there's a bigger population so there will be a lot more pressure."
The data shows the closer customers got the Queen St, the less satisfied they were.
"The nature of that is really around people being time-poor; they're busier, often people are on their lunch breaks when they're shopping and the expectations are higher," he said.
Regional towns rated higher than cities for overall satisfaction, the study found.
"Retailers in towns tend to be more friendly and helpful," Wylie said.
"When you're talking about cities, Christchurch throughout the year rates higher than both Auckland and Wellington, and in some places, up to 10 per cent higher."
Around Christmas, customer satisfaction in all regions drops by 5 per cent, on average - particularly in the last two weeks of December, it found.
"Retail needs to reinvent itself and really focus on experience, but to do that retailers need to know what customers actually want," Wylie said.
The study found Noel Leeming, New World, Pak 'n Save, The Body Shop and Muffin Break rated the highest among retailers for overall customer satisfaction.
"New Zealand retailers need to really lift their game and look at how they can beat Amazon, and if that's about having a better experience, instore as well as online then that's great," he said.
"If they're just going to fight on price that's going to be a tough battle."
Thirty-five per cent of Kiwis said they were feeling more financially stressed this Christmas, up from 31 per cent in 2016 and 27 per cent in 2015, according to research from credit card company Mastercard.
It found 15 per cent of Kiwis had more than 11 people to shop for this Christmas, 45 per cent of people had up to five people to buy for and 5 per cent of Kiwis would not be buying Christmas gifts this year.
More than a quarter of Kiwis said they intended to spend more than $200 per child - of any age - this Christmas and 15 per cent said the same for their partners.
Wylie said retailers needed to train appropriately and ensure that customers were always the priority in comparison to stacking shelves or other tasks.
"They need to make sure they are prepared staff-wise from this time onwards, as this is when the satisfaction levels tend to get hit the most," he said.
Feedback such as: "Store was busy. Waited half an hour, seemed like the staff didn't even want to be there. Expected better service given I am a loyal customer," was found to be typical customer responses in the study.