Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the U.S., has created an emotional connection with the public that’s the envy of the retail industry – one working to regain trust with consumers still somewhat reluctant to give big retail a welcome following several years of reputational decline, according to a new study from Reputation Institute.
The unique emotional bond Barnes & Noble enjoys with the public helped it earn the only excellent rating, and the #1 ranking for a consecutive year, in Reputation Institute’s US Retail RepTrak®️ 2019, which studied the reputation of the best-known US retailers. The annual study considered more than 8,900 individual ratings of 81 nominated retailers across the seven RepTrak drivers: Products/Services, Innovation, Workplace, Governance, Citizenship, Leadership, and Performance.
Despite several years during which Barnes & Noble, which operates 627 bookstores in 50 states, had several turnaround strategies designed to keep pace with the likes of Amazon.com and other retailers, the company is the only US retailer to have maintained an excellent rating for three straight years. All other companies included in the 2019 study earned a strong reputation rating. Barnes & Noble was recently acquired by a private equity firm in a deal that was finalized earlier this month.
Amazon.com, Inc., which has surpassed Walmart as the world’s largest retailer*, ranked second in last year’s US Retail RepTrak but did not make this year’s top 10 reputable retailers list. While the public’s level of trust and admiration for Amazon.com is in decline, the company still earned a strong rating due primarily to its strong financial performance and its prospects for growth.
The top 10 most reputable US retailers as rated by the informed general public in the US Retail RepTrak 2019 study are:
- Barnes & Noble
- Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ: COST)
- Bass Pro Shops
- Carter’s (NYSE: CRI)
- Ace Hardware
- Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW)
- AutoZone (NYSE: AZO)
- Kroger (NYSE: KR)
“Despite its challenges over the past few years, perceptions of Barnes & Noble remain strong and stable across all seven business drivers – and are actually improving,” said Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer at Reputation Institute, a global technology-driven provider of reputation measurement and management services. “What separates Barnes & Noble from other retailers is the depth of strong emotional connection it still has with the general public. Emotionally connected consumers are not only more engaged and trusting of a company, but ultimately are predisposed to buy from and buy into the brand – and align with what it stands for.”
Key takeaways for US retail industry
In 2019, the US retail industry is enjoying a reputation recovery, as are most industries except for banking and automotive, according to Reputation Institute. This year’s two-point reputation recovery for the retail industry equates to a return to a strong reputation rating and subsequently an increase in overall business support. Consumer trust, however, is recovered over time and on the heels of the 2017/2018 reputation decline all industries experienced; winning back consumer trust remains a work in progress for the US retail industry.
And while Products and Services still matter, their importance is declining and being overtaken by the importance of a Workplace that treats employees fairly and is concerned about employee health and well-being. In addition, the retail industry’s performance in the areas of Governance and Citizenship — corporate responsibility — is improving but has room for enhancement given an overall average score.
Companies interested in learning more about the U.S. Retail RepTrak 2019 and accessing 2019 reputation scores should visit https://www.reputationinstitute.com and https://reputationinstitute.com/contact.
* According to the Forbes’ Global 2000 list.