Kohl’s, Neiman Marcus and H&M were among the category leaders in consumer preference in a study conducted by L.E.K. Consulting.
The Retailer Preference Index helps retailers gauge who their nearest competitors are, based on consumer preferences. Criteria studied included product variety, perceived value for the money, service quality, ease of navigation in the store and fit. About 3,000 individuals were interviewed for the semiannual survey during the third week of October.
Kohl’s came in as the top department store, followed by J.C. Penney and Macy’s, with Dillard’s and Sears rounding out the top five. Shoppers at premium department stores ranked Neiman Marcus first, followed by Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. Charlotte Russe was the leader among teen specialty chains, followed by Forever 21, Hollister, American Eagle Outfitters and Aéropostale.
In women’s specialty retailing, H&M and Victoria’s Secret were a very close one and two, according to survey respondents. Old Navy, Ann Taylor Loft and Limited rounded out the top five.
Ann Taylor ranked 16 out of 19 in the women’s specialty category, with New York & Co. in sixth place, Gap in seventh, J. Crew in 10th and Urban Outfitters in the 15th slot.
“This means that Ann Taylor Loft is in a position to take market share, but Ann Taylor is not,” said Andrew Rees, vice-president and head of both the North American retail and consumer products practices at L.E.K.
“Old Navy,” he continued, “provides incredible value, while Urban failed to place higher because it targets a small segment of the population. The Urban customer is a postcollege, urban consumer while the 40-year-old mom doesn’t get it,” Rees said of the survey responses.
The greatest variation in test scores occurred in the women’s specialty category, with shoe retailers and teen specialty stores registering the second- and third-highest levels.
In men’s specialty retailing, Brooks Brothers finished highest, followed by Express Men, H&M, Casual Male and Banana Republic. Jewelry purchases were preferred at Tiffany, followed by Helzberg Diamonds, Zales and two divisions of Signet Jewelers, Jared and Kay.
The survey also revealed a deterioration in consumer sentiment since April, with most respondents expecting slight reductions in their spending six months from now. Those with less than $75,000 in annual household income expect to spend less because of the decreased value of assets and rising food prices, while those with incomes above that level are also concerned because of tighter credit and economic uncertainty. Respondents’ household incomes range from below $25,000 to above $200,000.
“Over the next year or two, consumers will be extremely cautious,” Rees said.
He noted that high-income respondents have retrenched since last April. “Their propensity to spend is linked to the stock market and savings. They are concerned about unemployment, and right now they are indicating that they don’t believe or trust the recent trends. They’re bearish on the stock market,” Rees said.