Blog: Nordic people love retail – but the love can fade fast

Studies of company reputation show that retailers are among the most liked companies in the Nordics. But the times are changing, and consumers will easily turn their back on companies that won’t adapt.

In the Nordics, the relationship between retailers and consumers is a love story, according to studies. Things are different in the US, where the reputation of the retail industry is in decline.

The “retail apocalypse” in the US

According to the Reputation Institute, which conducts annual reputation surveys, RepTraks, that rank companies all over the world, the US retail industry dropped 1.1 reputation points in 2018. Barnes & Noble is the only US retail company in the RepTrak survey with a reputation score in the excellent range.

An article in Forbes describes the situation in US as a “retail apocalypse”. The article claims that companies need to pay attention to two things to survive the retail apocalypse: customer experience and brand reputation.

Companies that continue to innovate, remain flexible and navigate new consumer trends can actually thrive in difficult times, according to the article. And consumers today will reward companies that effectively manage the information they put online and what the consumers say about the company on social media.

How do you improve a reputation?

The Reputation Institute survey indicates three key focus areas for US retail companies looking to improve their reputation: products, citizenship and governance.

The survey shows that these three drivers have increased in their importance since 2017, and this trend is expected to continue.

This means that US retail companies, in addition to offering quality products, must behave ethically and take an active role in society.

“The public increasingly cares about the ethics behind the goods they purchase, wanting to understand if the products are created with integrity and if the companies practice moral policies”, says Meghan Burke, Research Analyst at the Reputation Institute.

Affection for retail – especially Nordic retail

In the Nordic countries, high quality products and good ethical standards are also the most important factors for consumers. But there is a greater love for retail companies in the Nordics than in the US.  

At the top of the list in Norway we find the retailers Vinmonopolet, Ikea, Stormberg, Kiwi and Coop, all with a reputation score in the excellent range. The grocery chain Rema 1000 is the highest climber of all brands.

We seem to trust what we know

In the Norwegian survey, 13 of the 16 companies in the excellent reputation range are Norwegian companies. When we look at Sweden, Denmark and Finland, we find the same pattern.

Spotify and Ikea have the highest reputation score in Sweden. Ecco and Lego top the list in Denmark. In Finland, the most liked companies are Fazer and Valio. We seem to trust what we know.

Adapt or the love won’t last

The market does not lie. The retailers with the best reputation have years of experience trying to understand consumer behavior and offer products and services that align with it. If your company is open to change, and you have a credible, positive influence on society, customers may just give you their business – and their hearts.

Daniel Sellevoll

Communications Manager who has worked for retail companies, a PR agency and environmental NGOs. He has written a book on climate change and believes in the future of sustainable retail. More importantly, he believes every week that Arsenal is going to win their next football game.