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Sears, Kmart, American Apparel Among Least Engaged Brands

In a new study, Brand Keys finds 10 retailers among 555 worst-ranked brands.

A Kmart Super Center

Sears Holding Corp. had both its brands place among the 10 lowest ranked in customer engagement in a survey by brand consulting and research firm Brand Keys.

This story first appeared in the March 11, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Kmart finished third from the bottom and Sears sixth from the bottom in this year’s distillation of the lowest-ranked brands. The bottom 10 also included American Apparel Inc. in the seventh slot and Coty Cosmetics at number eight.

Blackberry finished lowest among the 555 brands studied by Brand Keys with a ranking of 52 percent, meaning respondents rated it as satisfying just more than half of the attributes consumers look for in an ideal brand in its category. Quiznos, the embattled sandwich maker that has drastically cut its store count in a battle against insolvency, was second at 57 percent, followed by Kmart at 59 percent, Sony e-readers at 60 percent and the Wow search engine at 60 percent.

Sears qualified for the sixth slot with a rating of 64 percent, followed by American Apparel at 65 percent and Budweiser (regular) at 70 percent. Coty Cosmetics hit the ninth spot at 71 percent, and Volkswagen rounded out the bottom 10 with a rating of 79 percent.

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“A brand can’t do well in today’s marketplace if it can’t engage consumers, no matter how many ads are run, and no matter how much social networking one does,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys.

Brand Keys in February disclosed the winners of its 2014 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, including Victoria’s Secret in specialty apparel, Macy’s among department stores and Wal-Mart in the discount category. The least-engaged-brands listing extracts the lowest rankings among all the brands surveyed, which extend among 64 categories.

Sears was grouped with department stores, Kmart with discount stores and American Apparel with specialty apparel retailers in the survey.

A total of 32,000 consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 were polled for the 2014 index, with 70 percent of them questioned by phone, 25 percent in face-to-face interviews and 5 percent online.

Brand Keys has conducted the survey for 18 years, and while it discloses the winners in various categories every year, it only occasionally reports on the other end of the rankings as well.

Passikoff noted a strong correlation between financial performance and engagement scores at both ends of the survey. While Blackberry has seen its market share drop precipitously and Quiznos has battled insolvency, Kmart and Sears saw their comparable-store sales drop 5.1 and 7.8 percent, respectively, in the fourth quarter. Inhibited by problems at its new distribution center and high interest expenses, American Apparel said last week it expects a net loss of about $122.1 million for 2013.