Resurgent bricks and mortar stores dominate 30 most popular UK retailers

20 June 2018 5 min. read
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The title of Britain’s favourite retailer has changed hands for the first time in eight years, according to a new survey of UK shoppers. Former ranking topper Amazon has been usurped by M&S Simply Food, which was closely followed by John Lewis and Lush.

A study from OC&C Strategy Consultants has shown that tastes at the top of the UK consumer tree have changed dramatically over the past 12 months. The survey of 13,000 shoppers in Britain found a growing intensity in competition among the leading retailers, with the top 10 market leaders separated by a narrower range of scores than the consultancy has seen in any of its previous barometers.

The poll has been run since 2011, and has seen the top and bottom ranked market incumbents moving steadily closer together since 2013. New innovations and falling prices of accessing new technology mean that a growing portion of the market can put new techniques into play in order to cut costs and improve customer journey offerings. According to researchers, this is highlighted by OC&C’s study, as retailers which are able to deliver marginal gains in their propositions have seen a significant impact in how they move up shoppers’ preference list.

Overall rating spread over time

Since 2011, ecommerce giant Amazon topped the ranking, as the innovative online company went from strength to strength. Now, the latest study of consumer sentiment has shown that Amazon has not only relinquished the top spot, but has slid to fourth.

The entities which replace Amazon at the summit are not necessarily surprising, considering they have been there, or there-abouts for the past seven years. Second-placed John Lewis has held that rank since 2012, while third-placed LUSH has now been positioned in the top four for the past four years. Perhaps the largest surprise comes from Amazon’s replacement at number one, M&S Simply food, which last year ranked sixth. Despite a challenging year for the company as a whole, the subsidiary of Marks & Spencer has risen to the pinnacle of the list, while its parent company has also made sixth place.

Closing out the top ten, Apple has seen customer sentiment buoy the group back to fifth. Aldi meanwhile enters the top ten for the first time – amid bullish sales figures and an ambitious international growth strategy making long term market incumbents increasingly wary of the notorious discounter, as Aldi, and 25th placed Lidl, boost their perceptions among shoppers by improving the quality of their produce. Boots, Ralph Lauren and IKEA make up the remainder of the list’s peak, illustrating a resurgence among traditional bricks and mortar stores.

Top retailers in UK

Last year the top ten saw a much larger presence from ecommerce firms, including Amazon, and ebay – and their perceived popularity among consumers has long been cited as a major factor driving the demise of a number of established high street brands. However, the picture painted by OC&C’s analysis suggests a more complex answer.

This is part of an ongoing shift in the habits of UK shoppers, who are increasingly prioritising quality over price and breadth of choice. The study found that quality perception was the single largest driver of rating change in the Index this year, especially among the over-35s who account for around 70% of the total retail spend. In the case of M&S Simply Food, the chain surpassed John Lewis and Amazon to become the UK’s favourite retailer by building on its existing reputation of quality, service and range.

Top 30 retailers

OC&C’s research has also shown that single category retailers like 15th placed Clarks and Body Shop (21st) have been the most successful in improving customer perceptions of quality, possibly because unlike more multifaceted stores they are able to concentrate on doing one thing well. As a result they have gained ground against competitors, while retailers focusing more on price or breadth of choice have seen less traction. One of the largest ‘risers’ in the annual index has been clothing retailer Jack Wills, jumping from 101st place in 2016 to 18th now. The brand’s success has largely been driven by improvements in consumer perceptions of its service, trustworthiness and quality.

Top 30

Elsewhere in the top 20, Waitrose, Waterstones, Wilko and Selfridges each posted solid results among consumers, as the last groups to score higher than 80. Closing out the top 20, Home Bargains (16th), Argos (17th), Lloyds Pharmacy (19th) and Greggs (20th) saw traditional bricks and mortar retailers dominate. The domination continued throughout the final 10 of the top 30, with Body Shop, Hugo Boss, Next, Mothercare, Lidl, Screwfix, Sainsbury’s, Lakeland, Debenhams and Iceland all scoring higher than 78 in the survey.

Matt Coode, Partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants said, “The results from this year’s Index should serve as a call to action for the retail industry. Clearly, while the Amazon model has delivered unparalleled success in recent years, it isn’t bulletproof… The research this year reveals that shoppers are increasingly prepared to pay a premium for excellence, so retailers must think carefully about the level of investment in price and promotion versus quality and service to ensure their continued success.”