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12/08/2021

Study: Bath & Body Works, Ace Hardware among retailers with best reputations

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Bath & Body works took the top spot in the “2021 Retail Reputation Report,” which is based on shopper reviews.

Customer service can make — or break — the shopping experience.

That’s according to reputation experience management company Reputation’s “2021 Retail Reputation Report.” The study, which examined 3.7 million shopper reviews across the U.S. and the U.K., ranks the top U.S. brands of 2021 based on shopper sentiment.

The top spot was taken by Bath & Body Works, which had the highest reputation score — 629 — of every retailer studied. It has built a very loyal fan base and its customers love talking about its products on social, the study noted. (The score is determined based on multiple factors measuring overall review sentiment in review sites, business listing accuracy and other indicators that reflect consumers’ experiences and opinions — both online and on-site.)

Ace Hardware was a close second, with a reputation score of 627, followed by Nordstrom, at 618. Rounding out the top five were Verizon, at 615, and Costco, at 607. (See end of article for the complete top 20 listing.)

The report uncovered the following key trends:
- Review volume is up 12% from 2020. This is important because 90% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase, and 72% read multiple reviews. Review volume is down 22% from pre-pandemic days.

- Views and actions on Google Business Profile rose 17% in 2021. Clicks to directions are up 15%. This data is good news for brick-and-mortar retailers because it signals that people are more interested in visiting physical stores.

- Forty-seven percent of consumers are researching products on Google

- Consumer sentiment about retailers has been dropping throughout 2021. Product availability showed the biggest drop in sentiment, which reflects a growing concern about the supply chain crisis. Product affordability was also a major factor hurting consumer sentiment; inflation and higher prices stemming from limited inventory took their toll. 

- While retailers are faced with staff shortages, customer experience is the only major category that showed an increase in sentiment in 2021 compared to before the pandemic. In particular, more reviews include employee names proving that the personal human connection is crucial to bringing shoppers back to stores and improving sentiment.

The report also noted that a number of the brands clustered around the top 20 showed how consumer tastes shifted during the pandemic. The popularity of Bass Pro Shops, Hobby Lobby, Guitar Center, and Michaels all reflected a widespread consumer attraction to delving into personal hobbies and learning.

Also, Ace Hardware certainly got more attention from consumers repairing and maintaining their homes, while PetSmart and brands similar to it benefited from a spike in pet ownership during the pandemic. Most of the brands that became more popular during the pandemic climbed to higher positions — with Ace Hardware jumping from the ninth to the second spot.

Here are the rankings of the top 30 U.S. retailers in the report.

- Bath & Body Works (Reputation score: 629)

- Ace Hardware (627)

- Nordstrom (618)

- Verizon (615)

- Costco (607)

- Bass Pro (606)

- Hobby Lobby (603)

- Guitar Center. (598)

- Michael's (596)

- Petco (590)

- Ulta (583)

- TJ Maxx (582)

- AT&T Wireless (582)

- True Value Hardware 9579)

- Victoria’s Secret (579)

- Dillard’s (571)

- PetSmart (571)

- JCPenney (565)

- Kohl's (555)

- Ross Dress for Less (543)

- Bed Bath & Beyond (543)

- Target (536)

 -Ikea (533)

- Macy's (521)

- Williams-Sonoma (516)

- Belk (516)

- Best Buy (513)

- American Eagle Outfitters (510)

- Dick's Sporting Goods (508)

- Gap (503)