Suspicious minds: Trust in UK retailers drops to four year low

Events such as the horsemeat scandal and the Bangladeshi factory disaster have lowered shoppers' trust in retailers. Apart from John Lewis.

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 08 May 2014
The retail sector isn’t having a particularly good week. Yesterday we found sales growth had slowed in September (for the second month running) and now new research has revealed trust in the retail sector has dropped to a four-year low.
According to the OC&C Strategy Consultants’ Retail Proposition Index (bit of a mouthful) trust in the retail sector fell by 1 point over the past six months to 70.8 (out of a total of 100) – the lowest score since the index began four years ago.
Around 10,000 shoppers in the UK were surveyed and it looks like issues such as the great horsemeat debacle, tax avoidance and the factory disaster in Pakistan have taken their toll on retailers’ reputations. For example Tesco, which was once one of the most trusted retailers, now lingers in the bottom five.
Furniture shops took the brunt of the drop in trust, falling by 3.1 points from 67.8 last year to 64.7 – the OFT’s investigation into six of the UK’s largest furniture retailers can’t have helped there. Entertainment retailers also saw a sizable drop of 3.4 points to 70.2.
‘Trust plays a critical role for consumers’ overall perception of a retail brand so it’s worrying that trust in retailers has hit a four-year low,’ said Tom Gladstone, partner at OC&C.
‘The report shows that a focus on CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] or ethical trading alone is not enough to convince UK consumers that a brand is trustworthy – rather, delivery on promise and quality remain prerequisites to winning consumer trust.’

(In fairness to the retail sector, 70.8 out of 100 isn’t anywhere near the levels of distrust in the banking sector.)
Coming out on top in terms of trust though is John ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ Lewis – lengthening its reign at the top. More than 96% of consumers trust the department store (did they not read about the sports bra fixing accusations?) Other brands commanding the trust of our legions of shoppers were Marks & Spencer and Waterstones.
One sector which also bucked the trend was ‘discount retailers’, including the likes of Aldi. It was the only category to gain trust over the last year with an increase of 1.3 points on the index. No wonder pound shops are spreading like wildfire.
‘Retailers such as John Lewis, M&S and Waterstones have worked relentlessly over the years to build their position and have been rewarded by consumers as a result,’ added Gladstone.

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