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Nordstrom Tops Fashion Chain Survey

Retailer moves past Kohl's, which falls to second, as Macy's, Dillard's and J.C. Penney round out Top 5.

Exterior of Nordstrom Rack store in Union Square, New York.

Nordstrom supplanted Kohl’s as the nation’s most popular fashion retailer and dominated the rankings for various attributes of the shopping experience in a survey of 4,000 consumers conducted by Market Force Information Inc.

As Nordstrom moved to the top spot and Kohl’s fell to second after first-place finishes in the two preceding surveys, Macy’s, Dillard’s and J.C. Penney maintained their respective third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes. The TJX Cos. Inc.’s TJ Maxx division moved to sixth place from eighth, Gap Inc.’s Banana Republic division to seventh from 13th and Gap’s Old Navy unit to the eighth spot from ninth.

Ross Stores picked up two notches to move to ninth place from 11th and Target was up five spots to 10th. The remaining four retailers to make the cut — qualifying as the top fashion retailer for at least 2 percent of the sample after weighting for the number of units — were Wal-Mart, up to 11th place from 16th; TJX’s Marshalls division, down two spots to 12th place, and American Eagle Outfitters and Express, neither of which qualified in the last study, conducted in late 2011.

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In addition to its top ranking overall, Nordstrom was rated highest for service, atmosphere, return policy, merchandise selection, ease of finding items, designer lines, unique clothing and dressing rooms. The only attributes in which it didn’t score highest were value, where Ross narrowly beat out TJ Maxx, and loyalty programs, where Kohl’s squeaked by Express.

“I don’t think Kohl’s fell as much as Nordstrom rose to the top,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer of Boulder, Colo.-based Market Force. “When we asked the respondents to classify themselves as ‘fashionista,’ ‘minimalist’ or ‘pragmatist,’ the pragmatist percentage was unchanged but the fashionistas grew by more than 5 percent and the minimalists slipped about the same.

“That shows growing confidence in the economy and bodes well for the industry, particularly at the upper end,” she noted.

The survey’s methodology involved a two-part process. The sample, about 60 percent female, first was asked to designate their favorite fashion retailers from a list of 108. All receiving at least 2 percent of that vote, after adjustment for store count, were then evaluated on individual retail criteria, such as service and return policy.

Kohl’s received a greater number of votes than did Nordstrom, but fell to second place upon the adjustment for store count.

Additional survey questions revealed a growing openness to new retailers. Nearly two in five — 39 percent — said they had been to a new fashion store within 14 days, nearly three times the 14 percent figure from the 2011 study.

Eden-Harris also noted the importance of the “delight” phenomenon in retailing. Asked to rate stores on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, 95 percent of the respondents said they would recommend a store that received a rating of 5, a figure that dropped precipitously, to only 13 percent, for stores rated 4 or lower. “Getting a ‘B’ in retailing just doesn’t cut it,” she said.