Sunderland prepares for ‘mystery shoppers’

City’s independent retailers celebrated

Independent retailers in Sunderland will be able to showcase their customer service skills as a number of ‘mystery shoppers’ drop in to give the city a full retail audit next month.

The Location Model, designed by Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for Retail, is being used to rate shopping experience and support the diverse range of independent retailers in the city centre. Assessors will look at a number of different areas, from shop standards to city centre parking, to produce a thorough city overview.

The project is being funded by the National Skills Academy for Retail and supported by Sunderland City Council.

The mystery shoppers will be out and about on Independents’ Day, 4 July 2011, a national campaign, organised by Skillsmart Retail and the National Skills Academy for Retail, aimed at encouraging the public to support their local independent retailers.

Trained market research professionals will visit each participating independent shop in Sunderland and judge how well they are performing in areas such as customer service, product knowledge and window display. As well as this, 100 shoppers in the street will be interviewed to find out how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with the service they receive.

Sunderland city centre itself will also be audited. This will focus on how easy it is for a stranger to shop in the city. Everything from car parking and street signage will be assessed – even the smallest of details such as how easy it is for shoppers to cross roads. The auditor will also look at the location of basic town landmarks including the Post Office and library.

Councillor Bryan Charlton, Portfolio Holder for Prosperous City on Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet, said: “We are confident that Sunderland has a great offer for shoppers and look forward to hearing the results of this report.  We have a diverse selection of independents in the city, that we are committed to supporting, especially in these tough times.  The mystery shopping survey is a great way to help our retailers and ensure they continue to provide the standard of service that will encourage customers to return to shop again and again.”

Once the information has been gathered, results will be used to see how the city can be developed.  The city will also be rated against the other 80 locations which have undergone the process.

Jane Rexworthy, Head of the National Skills Academy for Retail said: “The research will give the city’s leaders an up-to-date view of the area’s retail offer which will help them plan how to develop and promote the city in the coming months and years.

“Like many of the UK’s towns and cities, Sunderland has a great selection of independent retailers. These businesses do not usually get the opportunity for honest feedback on how they are performing, which is why the Location Model is so useful for them.  Once the results are announced, there will be numerous training opportunities through the Sunderland Skills Shop for the retailers, to ensure the improvements we identified can be made and businesses made more profitable.”

Full results from the Location Model project will be revealed at a special ceremony on 28 September 2011 at the Winter Garden. Prizes will be awarded to the businesses which perform best in the mystery shopping.

For more information on the Sunderland Skills Shop which provides free advice and information on  courses and learning opportunities to employees and learners call 0191 491 4175 or email



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