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Marks & Spencer voted Britain’s ‘most trusted’ high street retailer

Survey finds retailers more trustworthy than financial services companies


Marks & Spencer voted Britain’s ‘most trusted’ high street retailer

Survey finds retailers more trustworthy than financial services companies

For the second year in a row, Marks & Spencer is Britain’s most trusted retailer, according to a new online YouGov survey commissioned by integrated marketing communications agency Baber Smith. 

The Insight Survey by Baber Smith, which this year explores consumer trust in the retail and financial services (FS) sectors, reveals M&S as the most trusted retailer in Britain with 39% of consumers rating it as one of their top three most trustworthy retailers. John Lewis (26%) and Boots (23%) complete the top three in the trustworthy stakes (see appendix for full list.) Tesco’s dominance of the supermarket sector (according to the survey, 82% of consumers have used the supermarket in the past 12 months) fails to translate into trust, coming one place and one percent behind Asda (at 20%) in fifth with 19%.

Since consumers are much more likely to trust retailers they use, when you measure trust in relation to usage/ market penetration, the new leader is confirmed as John Lewis with a staggering 64% trust rating amongst its customers. M&S drops one place to second with 54%, but Waitrose jumps four places to third with 45%.

What do consumers value?

When asked to state the main reasons why retailers are trustworthy, consumers rank ‘Good reputation’ as the most important (55%). ‘High quality products’ and ‘Good value for money’ came out as joint-second with 42%. Interestingly, when you compare 2009 and 2010’s results the top three reasons for trusting a retailer remain the same. But whilst ‘Good reputation’ and ‘High quality products’ are either unchanged (at 55%) or marginally up (the latter increased 2% to 42% this year), ‘Good value for money’ is sharply up, raising from 34% to 42% this year.

Lesser still were factors such as ‘Good selection of products’ (33%), ‘Ethical business practices’ (18%), ‘Knowledgeable staff (16%), and ‘Low prices’ (15%). Marketers may be surprised to see ‘Live up to the promises in their advertising’ relatively low on the list with only 16% of consumers stating it was one of their top three  reasons for being trustworthy.

Retailers vs. Financial services companies

Significantly, it’s only when you compare the trust levels of retailers with financial services companies that you see how well retailers have done at gaining consumers’ trust. While the top ranked retailer is of course M&S with 39%, the top ranked financial services company is Nationwide, however it only scores a weak 15% in comparison. Indeed, if you were to combine the trustworthy rankings of the retail and financial service companies, retailers would make up eight of the top 10. Nationwide, the highest ranked financial services company, would only come joint 7th with Waitrose.

Rise of the retailer?

While you might assume that most people would think a traditional financial services company would be best placed to look after your money, the survey in fact reveals that only 39% of the population think that a financial service did the best job when compared to a retail company. In a damming indictment of the FS sector, nearly a third of people (28%) stated they ‘Don’t know’, which is effectively a vote against financial service companies. Only 6% think retail companies would do the best job of looking after their money, which is reflected in the apparent difficulties retailers face in converting a good retailer performance on trust into the financial services market. For example, when rated on their trustworthiness the major supermarkets’ financial services offerings rank relatively low with the following percentage scores: Tesco Finance (4%), M&S Money (4%) and Sainsbury’s Bank (2%). However, the fact that over a quarter (26%) of the population think both retailers and financial services companies are no better or no worse at looking after your money suggests that all is not lost for retailers looking to strengthen their position in the FS market.

Sam Jordan, Managing Director, Baber Smith comments: “What’s interesting about these results is how quality products and value for money have grown in importance as the main reasons for trusting retailers. Consumers seemingly have a clear preference for retailers that offer acceptable quality at reasonable prices, rather than those that just offer rock-bottom prices. Striking this fine balance has clearly paid dividends for the likes of M&S, which once again comes out as the UK’s most trusted retailer.

He adds: “It’s surprising that many of the big retailers have struggled to convert a good retail performance on trust into the financial services market. However the fact that so few consumers trust financial services companies, even with ones they trust to look after their own money, suggests there are rich pickings for retailers looking to expand their presence in this sector.”

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