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Websites of bed, sofa and flooring retailers performed well in first quarter of 2012

Homewares retailers’ websites enjoyed a strong start to the year with six companies managing to secure a place in the coveted top 20 positions in the table of the best performing UK retail websites in Q1By Glynn Davis


Websites of bed, sofa and flooring retailers performed well in first quarter of 2012

The rapid ascent of bed retailer Dreams, up 317 places to 17th spot, into the top 20 places catapulted it into the company of other homewares retailers: DFS Furniture, which again held top spot; Pownall Carpets in fifth place; Fired Earth in ninth spot; Sofa Workshop in 13th position; and KD Beds in 20th place. 

The quarterly testing of the Retail 500 of top UK online stores is undertaken by Sitemorse using automated software that, page by page reads the first 125 pages of each retailer’s sites to generate a ranked table based on checks to Quality, User Experience, Accessibility, Performance and SEO capability of each of the websites.

Lawrence Shaw, chief executive of Sitemorse, says: “The homewares category – especially for big ticket items like beds, sofas and flooring – is having a particularly tough time and so it is heartening that some of the bigger players in this area are clearly committing resources to ensuring their websites perform well for online shoppers.”

It is an especially strong performance from DFS that increased its score this quarter to 9.70 out of 10 compared with 9.50 in Q4 2011, and also from Anoushka that retains second spot with a score of 9.37. Just behind them is Turnbull & Asser that holds onto third place with 8.49.

This unchanged top three places, and the same names holding the top six places in the table, highlights the growing consistency in the performances of the UK’s top retail websites. Shaw suggests this might well be a result of retailers’ reluctance to make changes to their sites over the crucial Christmas period – when this quarter’s testing was undertaken by Sitemorse.

However, this stability at the top is not necessarily reflected elsewhere in the table as shown by the fact there were some significant climbers and fallers. Among the big risers are Furniture123 with a jump of 407 places, FeatureDeco up 353, Dreams up 317, Costco up 248, and Claire’s Accessories UK up 228.

The top five fallers comprised: Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which fell 203 positions, Debenhams 223, Majestic Wine 241, Beaverbrooks Jewellers 278, and Miu Miu, which was the biggest faller with a descent 353 places in the table to 444th spot.

Even after this dramatic fall it is still positioned three places above Amazon UK, which is among a batch of online-only retailers that do not deliver particularly strong performances. These include Figleaves, in 451st place, Slurp in 456th spot, and Screwfix in 468th place.

Interestingly, Screwfix is among a number of sites at the bottom end of the table that could be on the cusp of change, which could see them move up the table. Its sister company B&Q has recently appointed the former M and M boss Steve Robinson to oversee its e-commerce offer and so his influence could spread to the Screwfix business.

Likewise, Mothercare has just appointed the former head of LoveFilm Simon Calver as its new chief executive, who will bring e-commerce experience to his new role. Similarly Waterstones has a new boss (and new owner) who will no doubt have the bookseller’s online store in his sights.

The final ranked table includes only 468 retailers (a further worsening on the 470 tested in Q4 2011 and 275 in Q3 of last year) because merchants were excluded from the testing if they used assistive technology such as JavaScript, which breaks the general “rules of accessibility” of internet sites, according to Sitemorse. To view the results, click here.

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