By  on November 29, 2007

The top specialty and department store retailer brands ranked by Brand Keys' Customer Loyalty Engagement Index.

Consumers are being offered a greater variety of brands at different price points than ever before — making them more fickle as well. So how to capture and maintain customer loyalty? "Loyalty strength relates directly to how well consumers behave toward their favorite brands," said Robert Passikoff, president of New York-based Brand Keys, which has issued its biannual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. The index weighs everything from shopping experience and convenience of locations to perceived value, uniqueness and style of merchandise, and the brand's overall reputation or buzz. Loyalty strength is indicated by an index number, with 100 as the benchmark — anything higher than 100 is above average — and the top stores scored well above that.

Specialty Apparel Stores

1. H&M*
Customer Loyalty Engagement Index score: 118
Two drivers are contributing to this loyalty leader, according to Brand Keys: the customers' shopping experience and satisfaction with the retailer's unique, stylish merchandise. In fact, H&M has been successful in pulling some of the biggest celebrity and designer names to create exclusive collections, including Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Viktor & Rolf and, most recently, Roberto Cavalli. Last week, the brand revealed plans to use vintage prints from Finnish textile firm Marimekko for a special capsule collection arriving in stores in 28 countries next April. "Our design team has long admired Marimekko's vivid prints and colors," H&M head of design Margareta van den Bosch told WWD.

2. VICTORIA'S SECRET*
Index score: 118
"It goes without saying that Victoria's Secret's lineup of unique merchandise appeals to its customers," said Brand Keys' Robert Passikoff. "If you know this store, where else would you go?" He added customers like their shopping experience within the roughly 1,000 Limited Brands-owned stores nationwide. "The buzz is big with this retailer, too — its reputation ranks high, thanks to smart advertising and their use of plenty of well-known supermodels." The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, taped last week and set to air as a one-hour special Tuesday on CBS, showcased creative styling, said WWD, and of course, top models, including Heidi Klum, Karolina Kurkova, Adriana Lima and Jessica Stam.

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