Local retail: Where are people kindest (and harshest) in their online reviews?

In this 6-minute read:

  • Which regions of the country are kindest/harshest in online reviews of retailers?
  • In which cities are people kindest/harshest in reviews of retail shops?
  • The cities with the best and worst reviewed retail stores

We recently published our impact of online reviews on revenue report, in which our data scientists analyzed review site and transaction data at over 200,000 small businesses across the country. As part of the full report, we analyzed online reviews and transaction data at retail shops specifically, which illuminates what actually matters most to retailers when it comes to online reviews.

Now that we’ve completed our full analysis, we thought it would interesting to dive deeper into the data we used in that report and see which parts of the country were home to the best reviewed—and worst reviewed—retail shops.

In other words, where do the harshest (and kindest) retail critics in the country live?

North, South, East, West — which area of the country is home to the harshest critics of retail?

Our report involved the analysis of over 1.7 million reviews posted about retail shops across the country. We started by looking at what percentage of those total reviews were positive vs negative. (Note: 4 and 5 star reviews were categorized as “positive,” while 1 to 3 star reviews were “negative.”)

84% of the reviews posted about retail shops in our analysis were positive, suggesting that Americans are much more favorable in their reviews than we might have believed.

So with that in mind, let’s start by looking at the major regions of the country.

As you can see, when we analyze the average review rate by census districts, positive reviews remain high from coast to coast.

The Pacific district was home to the lowest percentage of good retail reviews (82.8%), suggesting that the “laid back” vibe often associated with the west coast doesn’t necessarily extend to online reviewers of retail shops.

Midwesterners and New Englanders, meanwhile, post up the highest percentage of good reviews for retail shops, with good showings by East South Central and East North Central divisions as well.

Check out our impact of online reviews on retail revenue report for a list of which states are kindest and harshest to retail shops in reviews.

The kindest and harshest cities in America for retail reviews

Now that we’ve looked a which regions and states produce the most consistently positive retail reviews in the country, let’s focus in a little: Which cities are home to the kindest and harshest retail reviews?

We started by looking at major metro areas where we had data from 40 retail shops or more and evaluating what percentage of these reviews posted in each city were positive. Here’s what we found:

Greensboro, North Carolina took home the prize for the city where retail store reviews were most frequently positive. 93% of all reviews posted about retail shops across the Greensboro area were favorable.

Fresno, California is a close second place, and Greenville, South Carolina also has a positive review rate for retailers of over 92%.

The most critical city in the country is San Jose, California, as 27.9% of all retail reviews posted there were negative. Nearly a quarter of all retail reviews posted in Virginia Beach were also negative, making it the second harshest city in the country for retailers.

Which cities are home to the best and worst reviewed retail shops?

The section above showed us how frequently any given retail review in each city was positive or negative, but we also wanted to see which cities were home to the best- and worst-reviewed retail shops.

We started by looking at cities whose retail shops were most consistently rated 4.5 stars or higher.

retail reviews

It’s apparent that South Carolinians love their local retail shops, as Greenville not only placed in the top 3 for consistently positive reviews, but they have the highest percentage of retail shops rated 4.5 or higher. Nearly three-quarters of retail shops in Greenville were this highly rated. Allentown, Pennsylvania also appears both among the cities that are home to the best-reviewed retail shops and cities whose reviewers were the most consistently positive.

To find the home of the worst-reviewed retail shops, we examined what percentage of retail shops in each city had a rating of 2.9 stars or lower.

retail reviews by city

Fayetteville, AR was home to the worst-reviewed retail shops in our analysis by far, as a whopping 22.7% of their retail shops were rated at 2.9 stars or lower. Atlantic City, NJ came in 2nd with 13%.

An important thing to consider when looking at all the cities above, of course, is how few local retail shops are poorly reviewed, generally. Even taking Fayetteville as an extreme example, over 77% of all retail shops still had a star rating of 3.0 or higher, and in the majority of cities on our “worst-reviewed” list the number is over 90%, so shopping options are far from bleak no matter what city you’re in.

Managing reviews if you own a local retail shop

Despite what we might believe, customers are generally quite positive when leaving reviews of local retail shops—even though sometimes it may not feel like it.

At the end of the day, it’s not about whether a retailer brings in good or bad reviews, but it’s about consistently getting genuine, authentic reviews. As we discuss in our full report, even bad reviews can be a good thing, as many customers read bad reviews in particular when deciding whether to try a new store—and Womply’s data shows that “fresh” reviews (posted within the last 90 days) are far more important than “good” reviews.

That’s why it’s important for retail stop owners to keep an active presence on all online review sites—claim and update your listings, and respond to your online reviews. Then work to get more reviews… as long as they are genuine, authentic ones.

A strong online presence helps your retail shop stand out above the competition, no matter how kind or harsh your critics might be.

Finally, to make this process easier (and save you a lot of time), look into Womply’s reputation management software. Businesses that use Womply average 20% more revenue, 22% more repeat visits, and 10 hours of time saved every week. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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