Scrutiny of the sector and its conduct is growing against the backdrop of the global pandemic, finds RepTrak

Retail reputation is on the decline. Once a strong contender, Retail has slid down the ranks and its daily necessity is not enough to maintain its usual reputational glow, finds RepTrak in a new report.

Customers have increased expectations in product and in conduct. Coming out of 2020, certain industry responses benefited from the pandemic, improving their reputation drastically. But Retail saw a different result, with its Reputation Score decreased from a Strong 70.6 to an Average 69.1.

Historical RepTrak research shows a 1-point drop often results in a 4- 5% drop in support. As we adjust to a long-term pandemic and the resulting “new normal,” scrutiny is at an all-time high.

The pandemic and changing regulations changed the in-store and online shopping experience, and how retail responded both within and beyond their product, didn’t quite resonate with the public.

Retail was the only Q1 Strong Industry to not maintain a Strong Reputation Score into Q2. Amid COVID, much of Retail was a beacon of comfort and a trusted supplier of necessities in the uncertainty.

But when interaction is daily, there are more opportunities to make, and damage, an impression.

Social distancing and mask mandates have fluctuated in-store (as have frustrations), while shipping delays are the reminder of global relations and the differences in the international COVID experience.

Concerns around governance and conduct are also back on the agenda for many consumers as countries emerge from lockdown.

”Ethical production, environmental impact, workers’ rights, and innovation are under inspection with COVID still blaring in the background — and everyone’s a critic,” it warns.

In addition to its key reputation metrics, RepTrak also tracks ESG analytics to reflect public perception of performance against 17 factors, including considerations like sustainability, talent management, diversity, and ethical governance.

It has found 63% of consumers prefer to buy goods and services from companies that “stand for a purpose that reflects their values and beliefs” and will avoid those who do not.

More than 90% of companies RepTrak studied saw that their ESG efforts did not match the public’s perception of their ESG efforts.

From a retail perspective, it uses the example of employment practices. While Healthcare workers received rightful praise during the pandemic, Retail workers on the frontline did not receive the same recognition (or compensation) and customers noticed.

Meanwhile, the continued use of environmentally-damaging practices, like dye pollution, plastic infiltration, and international shipping protocol is also impacting public perception.