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July 11, 2008 3:54 PM

Business, Retail

Retail's Most Reputable Names

There's never a dull moment when analyzing data. And the data behind this week's "WWD List" were no different (July 10, page 11). Reputation Institute (a reputable source, rightly so) released the results of its Global Pulse Study -- top...

There's never a dull moment when analyzing data. And the data behind this week's "WWD List" were no different (July 10, page 11). Reputation Institute (a reputable source, rightly so) released the results of its Global Pulse Study -- top companies ranked by corporate reputation, according to consumers. The firm broke out a separate list of retailers, so it was an ideal feature for WWD and its readers.


Home Depot at work.
When I received the rankings from Reputation Institute, I thought, "Where are all the retailers we cover?" But after looking further into the criteria selection, I realized that the firm begins with a universe of 600 global companies with the highest revenues. Breaking that down further, only 150 of these were U.S.-based, and Reputation Institute provided only the top-ranked U.S.-based retailers. So, in a nutshell, the universe consisted of 25 of the largest retailers in America. And keep in mind: All retailers are analyzed -- not just specialty, department and discount stores. Office supply store chains, drugstore chains -- they get their say, too, in this survey.

It became quite clear why companies such as Costco (#1) and Walgreens (#2) were ranking so highly on reputation: These top names are actively giving back to their communities and providing employee incentives, while many are also implementing initiatives to become more eco-friendly. Not to mention that these companies are not bashful about publicizing the good they do.

So, look at it this way: Knowledge is power. The more a consumer knows about a retailer, the more he or she will be inclined to choose to shop there. Consumers shop at stores they like, trust and that they know are going above and beyond to become better companies.


Price point is also a key issue for most of these retailers, as well. In fact, 12 highest-scoring retailers are all value-oriented, with J.C. Penney (#10) and Kohl's (#11) the only ones more moderate than mass. In this economy, consumers are clearly turning to Costco and Walgreens for their discounts.


Some additional key industry findings from the report:


  • On average, the retail category posted a moderate reputation with U.S. consumers. Industries that are highly regarded by the U.S. general public: consumer products companies (including Kraft, P&G, J&J), industrial products (Deere, Caterpillar, 3M, etc.) and computers (Dell, Intel, IBM, Texas Instruments, etc.). The average scores for these three industries are 76, 76, 72, respectively, and for retail, 66. The average score across the study is about 64.

  • In terms of industries, consumer products ranked the highest on national and international scales. The energy industry had the worst reputation in the U.S., while telecommunications companies had the worst reputation among consumers worldwide.

  • Wal-Mart, which did not make the top 12, dipped in reputation standing from 2007 to 2008, despite recent efforts to green its supply chain. Newcomers to the study -- Toys 'R' Us, Office Depot and Staples -- jumped into the top 12 with strong showings.
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