Marks & Spencer has been voted the UK’s ‘most trusted’ high street retailer, while one in five shoppers say the 125-year-old brand is the business they would least like to see disappear.
The retailer, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this week with a Twiggy-fronted advertising campaign, topped the survey commissioned by specialist marketing agency Baber Smith and conducted by YouGov.
M&S was named by 22% of shoppers surveyed as the most trusted high street retailer. It also topped the list of retail brands consumers would least like to leave the high street, with 22% of the vote, followed by both Boots and Tesco on 13%.
Baber Smith’s study quizzed 1,979 Brits on their shopping habits during April 2009, a particularly gloomy period for the retail industry.
The research also revealed that a good selection of products (54%), good value for money (48%) and a good reputation (31%) are the three main reasons shoppers would hate to lose their favourite High Street retailer.
And despite the rise of online shopping, particularly with the younger generation, the majority of Brits (32%) still prefer to do their fashion shopping in the town shopping centre, compared with the 15% who buy their goods online.
Ethical business practises have dominated retailers’ agendas in recent times but only 17% of consumers identify this as an important factor in establishing trust.
It’s not all about price in the current climate
Retailers may believe that ‘flash’ and ‘unseasonal’ sales are strategies best suited to increase footfall in this recession. However when consumers were asked why they would be upset if a retailer went out of business, only 25% stated ‘low prices’. This is compared to 48% who identified ‘good value for money’ was a more significant factor.
Reputation is key
When asked why they trusted their favourite retailer, over half (55%) of British shoppers claimed a good reputation was the reason behind their trust in the retailer. Two fifths (40%) cited quality products as the main reason for placing their trust in a retailer, while a good refund and exchange policy was imperative for a third (33%) of shoppers.
M&S tops with young shoppers
Marks & Spencer may reign supreme with the majority of shoppers, but it is also the shop of choice for consumers aged 18-24. The majority of this age group (17%) voted it as the shop they would be most upset to see disappear from the high street.
Commenting on the research, Dr. Alain Samson, a consumer psychologist affiliated with the LSE, said, “Brand image, reputation, product and service quality, as well as perceived value all play a role in shaping a consumer’s overall view of a retailer as this research has shown.
“Amid existing negative consumer sentiments in the current economic climate, companies also risk consumer dissatisfaction and distrust if they no longer live up to their pre-recession promises.
"A retailer looking to increase footfall in their shops by implementing cost-cutting tactics should proceed with caution. If the quality of products or services falls as a result, such practices may contribute to customer distrust of that particular brand in the long term.”
Baber Smith managing director Sam Jordan said that with cash-conscious consumers paying closer attention to the purchases they make, retailers were having to fight harder than ever to maintain levels of consumer trust.
“As our research shows Marks & Spencer is leading the way with a strong focus on offering high quality products, at good value, upholding its good reputation,” he added. “In this recession, retailers have only one opportunity to get it right otherwise customers will vote with their feet.”
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