Consumers seek more value, not price wars
Marks & Spencer's presence on Britain's high streets is the most valued by shoppers, with one out of five (22%) citing the iconic retailer as the business they would least like to see disappear and a further 22% claiming that it is the most trusted high street retailer, according to a survey commissioned by marketing agency Baber Smith.
The survey, conducted by YouGov, examined consumers' shopping habits during the economic downturn, and found that Marks & Spencer was joined by Boots (13%) and Tesco (13%) as the top three retailers that British consumers would hate to see closing stores.
Among the survey's main findings about factors that make stores valued and trusted:
- A good selection of products (54%), good value for money (48%) and a good reputation (31%) are the three main reasons that shoppers don't want to lose their favourite retailer;
- Online shopping may be popular with the younger generation but 32% still prefer to do their fashion shopping in their town shopping centre, compared with only 15% who buy these items online;
- Ethical business practices have dominated retailers' agendas in recent times, despite the fact that only 17% of consumers identified this as an important factor in establishing trust.
According to Baber Smith, today's cash-challenged consumers are not really as concerned with price as getting greater value for the same spending. Retailers may believe that 'flash' and 'unseasonal' sales are strategies best suited to increase footfall in this recession but, when consumers were asked why they would be upset if a retailer went out of business, only 25% cited low prices - compared to 48% who cited value for money as a more significant factor.
And, when asked why they trusted their favourite retailer, more than half (55%) claimed that "a good reputation" was the reason for their high level of trust, while only 40% cited the quality of goods, and 33% cited "a good refund and exchange policy".
Interestingly, Marks & Spencer was noted as the shop of choice for consumers aged 18-24, with 17% of this group citing it as the shop they would be most upset to see disappearing from the high street.
According to Dr Alain Samson, a consumer psychologist affiliated with the London School of Economics (LSE), "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. 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 seeking to increase footfall in its 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 brand in the long term."
Indeed, with cash-conscious consumers paying ever-closer attention to the purchases they make, retailers now need to fight harder than before to maintain critical levels of consumer trust.
The full research report has been made available for free download from Baber Smith - click here (free registration required).