In the second part of this month's mystery shop, we visit Southampton on the lookout for some bargains...

Mystery Shopper ? Southampton Part Two


Tucked away from the main shopping centres and retail parks, this small, neat and tidy store at first glance didn’t seem to have embraced the Christmas spirit. But on closer inspection I saw a few swirls of tinsel and a Christmas banner in the trademark Comet orange. After around ten minutes of wandering around the store, I finally found a sales assistant.

I asked for his help to identify the best Christmas deals in-store. "We don’t really have a lot," he said; a statement not supported by the large stack of Christmas catalogues and flyers at the front of the store. After a little prompting we were off.

The Bose SoundDock speaker system for the iPod, priced at £159.99, was first on his list of products. Challenging him on his choice – and by no means to knock this brand in any way – I asked him to explain his recommendation. "Bose make some really excellent equipment, the machine produces a deeper sound for a small system which will fill a whole room." He then impressed me with some more technical jargon like, ‘simple user interface,’ ‘active electronic equalisation’ and ‘digital signal processing circuitry’.

Happy with the choice of speaker dock, we moved onto the digital camera offers. Pointing to the Samsung D1070 in black (priced £69), he said: "This is a good, basic digital camera." The features included 10.2MP, 2.7-inch screen, three-times optical zoom, autofocus and red-eye reduction. A package deal was also available, which included a memory card and case.

We stopped alongside a Logitech Z4 2.1 speaker system. He smiled and said: "This is an excellent system for the money and it’s small enough to fit comfortably on your desk." The stylish speakers boasted 40 watts of power, a subwoofer, 35hHz- 20KHz and volume control, and was priced £44.99.

Okay – time to move on, recommendations from this store were clearly music orientated, but I guess this was okay given the time of year.
SCORE: 6/10


Just a stone’s throw away from John Lewis, the familiar red and white glow of the sign was shining brightly. Avoiding busy shoppers near the entrance, my eyes scanned across the store, soaking up every piece of POS to be seen as I aimed to get a feel for the Christmas offers up for grabs.

After five minutes or so, I was greeted by a friendly, quiet sales assistant. Explaining I needed inspiration for Christmas presents, the store Christmas catalogue was thrust in my direction and I was asked to follow. The first products to be viewed were the MP3 players, once again dominated by Apple’s ubiquitous iPod range. The sales assistant reminded me that there were lots of deals to be taken advantage of. Those deals included 25 per cent off a case when bought with any model, or an accessory package consisting of a USB power adapter, stereo cable and car charger for only £20.

She was keeping the best to last; a circular JBL speaker dock with 12 watts output and remote control. It was half price when bought with an iPod Nano in-store. A £10 gift voucher with a purchase of any iPod Nano, Touch or Classic topped it off, as was the case with PC World.

Next we headed to the camera counter; I thumbed through the catalogue, as she headed around the other side of the glass counter, pulling out a Panasonic FS3. "I have just bought one of these and they are a great little camera," she said. The features included eight mega pixels, three times optical zoom, 2.5-inch LCD screen, image stabilisation and ‘face detection’. What’s more, the price had dropped £30 to £99.99. A package deal, which included a 1GB memory card and case, was priced at £134. I would receive another £10 gift card. "You could spend it on a three year warranty," she said. If I wanted to really shoot for the moon, present wise, I was shown Sony’s JDL32V4000 32-inch LCD TV. The price was a very reasonable £399 with a free 5.1 home cinema system.

I was impressed with the range of offers and the plentiful literature. The Christmas catalogue had a good range of offers on various products, including portable DVD players from all the major brands, a wide range of MP3 players, games consoles including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, cameras and camcorders, as well as a large selection of coffee machines and electric razors; plenty to get the sleigh bells ringing.
SCORE: 8/10

John Lewis

Christmas was definitely in the air as I entered this festive department store in search of top technology deals to help keep my bank manager happy. Ascending the escalator, I admired the red and silver decorations hanging down the centre of the store; all floors filled with trees, decorations, toys and much more. I spotted a mound of catalogues, full with all manner of electronic goodies, including MP3 players, DAB radios, cameras, camcorders, photo frames and speaker docks. Arriving in the section, I was approached by, I presumed, a team leader or floor manager.

"What are the best offers you have in store for this Christmas?" I asked quizzically. A CD digital radio offer, an iPod deal or possibly one of the great value camcorders might tempt the green stuff from my wallet. He led me over to the sales desk, introducing me to a young sales assistant. He focused on price and tempting deals, recommending a JVC GZ-M5100EK camcorder for £199. "This is a great HDD camcorder, with a massive 35-times optical zoom and is extremely compact," he enthused, allowing me to try out the unit testing the large zoom function myself.

My attention was now drawn to the ever colourful iPods displayed in a large spot lit glass cabinet. "The iPods are on offer with a free set of Denon headphones worth £25 when you buy any model except the shuffle," he explained. "The headphones gave greater noise cancellation than the headphones which come with the iPod," he added.

He finished off by showing me the Roberts CD & DAB player, standing proudly on a gondola end. The offer here was a free Roberts RD21 DAB radio worth £79.95. Clarifying the offer, he explained that when the CD & DAB player (priced £249) was purchased, there was a portable DAB radio available free. The CD player had a sleek design, 30 presets, a clock/alarm and a small remote control; a nice piece of kit for anyone looking to upgrade their stereo unit.

The store, as expected, had a great Christmas feel, along with products at very competitive prices. I was shown solid offers that would appeal to everyone.
SCORE: 7/10

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