Cambridge comes joint first in retail evaluation Independent shops help city shine

A team of mystery shoppers and city assessors have given Cambridge the thumbs up in a survey aimed at evaluating the city’s shopping experience.

Throughout June and July, a professional team carried out the Location Model project, designed by Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for Retail, to see how well Cambridge performed in a number of different areas, from car parking to customer service.

A mystery shopping test evaluated the performance of 30 independent retailers in the city, producing a score of 90.8%. This is well above the benchmark of 80% and places the city joint first out of 83 towns across the country which have been assessed through the Location Model, alongside Newport and Rugeley in Staffordshire.

The vast majority (94.9%) of the mystery shopping visits had the customer service rated ‘good’ or ‘very good’ and 90% said they would recommend the store to a friend. The shops were also eye-catching (96%), accessible to push-chairs (97%) and staff knew their products (100%).

The best performing shops were Cambridge Strings, a specialist stringed instrument store based on King Street, and Catherine Jones Jewellery on Bridge Street, both of which scored 100% in the mystery shopping. They are two of only four businesses out of 5,000 nationally, assessed through the location model, who have scored 100%.

The team also conducted over 100 street interviews to ask their opinion of Cambridge and its shopping. 70% of those interviewed felt the town was clean and tidy and 90% said they generally felt safe in the city.

More than three-quarter (76%) of respondents thought Cambridge Market was an important part of the overall shopping offer and 30% said when shopping in the city they would always visit Cambridge Market.

Regarding the retail makeup of the city centre, the majority 84% of respondents thought there was a wide variety of national retailers and 55% thought that there was a good variety of independent shops.

One area for improvement highlighted by the interviews was parking. Only 24% of respondents in the street interviews agreed parking was easy to find in the city centre. However, the town centre assessment, the final part of the report, found that the Park and Ride was easy to find. It also concluded that there were plenty of bus stops in the town centre.

The city centre assessment also found that the public toilets were clean, disabled access throughout city was rated as very good and there was signage to main public buildings and tourist attractions.

The assessor said: “Overall, Cambridge is a town that I would want to return to and would recommend. It feels as if it would be a great location to explore as a tourist, to shop in, and to go out for food. The end-to-end experience in the town was a pleasant one.”

The Cambridge Location Model was funded by the National Skills Academy for Retail and supported by Love Cambridge, the City Centre Partnership for Cambridge.

Emma Thornton, Head of Tourism and City Centre Management and the Love Cambridge Partnership, said: “These are really great results which we should be proud of. Cambridge is a super city which is famous all across the world. It is good to know that the thousands of new visitors to the city ever year will be leaving with a good impression of a clean, safe and convenient destination with an excellent retail offer.

“Cambridge has many small retailers, popular with residents and tourists, and we would like to thank them for their contribution to the great variety of retail in the city. The mystery shop results were amazing and confirm that Cambridge’s independent retailers are at the top of their game.

“The report has also thrown up some definite areas of improvement which we will be looking over.  We are certainly not complacent and it is important to ensure that Cambridge remains a great shopping destination.”

There is more good news for Cambridge, the area has just been approved as a location for a new National Skills Academy for Retail skills shop, which will offer information and advice on training opportunities to retailers, their employees and those seeking to get into the sector.

Jane Rexworthy, Head of the National Skills Academy for Retail said: “Congratulations to Cambridge and its independent shops for producing these amazing results, which confirm the city as a shopping destination of choice for visitors from home and abroad. We are delighted to add Cambridge to our network of skills shops. The new facility will provide a valuable service to local businesses and through training and advice will help increase productivity and strengthen the city’s retail offer.”

For more information on the Cambridgeshire Skills Shop contact Paul Johnson or 01702 201070.


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