TUESDAY 16 AUG 2016 10:37 AM


It is vital for brands to establish a respectable reputation and create trust with its customers. Especially in a time where online shopping retail sales are rapidly rising, digital communications become increasingly crucial for them to achieve this.

According to The Reputation Institute (RI), in August 2016, ASOS, Laura Ashley and Debenhams are the UKs most reputable fashion retailers. Laura Ashley and Debenhams, are both brands which are available in-store, and have a wider platform for communications. Whereas, ASOS, an online-only brand, may rely more heavily on digital communications in order to create a good reputation. Thus, the results from RI ranking, based on 5,000 interviews with the UK general public, proved surprising.

RI plays a fundamental role in consulting companies and allowing them to make more confident and efficient decisions concerning how they protect and maintain reputation. The RepTrak® system is used to rank the different companies, as done for these fashion retailers. It measures the company’s capacity to reach expectations, across seven key categories. These categories are: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership and performance. Each company is rated on a scale of 0 to 100 for each category, consisting of 5 bands: poor, weak, average, strong and excellent.

In general, the opinion on fashion retailers amongst the UK general public is positive. However, remarkably, the online-brand, ASOS, is the only brand to break into the excellent band, scoring highest in innovation, leadership and, even, perceptions of citizenship, a category where other brands had fallen.

ASOS, being the only brand to attain excellence, demonstrates that by steering away from traditional communication methods with stakeholders, that most other retailers use, it was able to build a stronger reputation. This online-only brand has taken its weakness of not having the face-to-face experience that other companies have, and used it to its advantage. By acknowledging the importance of digital communications, ASOS have become more innovative than other brands, and come up with different ways to appeal to its consumers.

Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at RI, says, “It is intriguing that an online only retailer has achieved a stronger reputation than the old high-street favourites. This not only reflects the shift in shopping habits of the UK general public, but it also underlines the point, that you can build a high degree of trust, respect, and admiration without the face to face experience.”

Despite these retailers being ranked highly for their products, workplace conditions and citizenship initiatives are areas that need to be focused on to shrink reputational risk. For example, Primark sits at the bottom of the ranking, with the weakest scores for the citizenship and governance, implying that the unethical supply chain practices have affected consumer attitude on the brand. Also, New Look has recently endured a reputational decline due to the media reacting to children’s clothing promoting poor body image.  

Nielsen says, “While reputation in the fashion industry is largely driven by the quality and desireability of products, we have seen Marks & Spencer, ASOS and SuperGroup(SuperDry)’s commitment to creating positive workplaces and focussing efforts on ethical supply chain boost their overall scores.”

“With only one retailer breaking through the ‘excellent’ barrier, many within the sector need to do more to cement and build upon their reputations. Businesses can gain further goodwill with the public by defining and further demonstrating responsible business behaviour and corporate citizenship.”


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