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Brand love elevates to new heights in the retail sector

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Edward Weston Executive 23/05/2022

A new study from BrandVue, Savanta’s daily brand tracking tool, shows that year-on-year brand love has grown for brands across some of the UK’s biggest sectors.

Brand love in the retail sector has always varied greatly by age; younger consumers often appreciate the value delivered by brands, whilst older consumers are more likely to stick with what they know and pay more for quality.

The data highlights changes in how the UK public felt towards brands over the course of the pandemic. We’ve taken a deep dive into what caused these changes, which sectors and types of brands were most impacted, and if any were insulated or even benefitted from such a severe change in socio-economic conditions.

This month we focus on the retail sector, highlighting some interesting changes in how the UK felt towards retailers at the start, middle and ‘end’ of the pandemic.

Despite previously being the most likely group to say they love a brand in the retail sector, sentiment amongst Millennials and Gen Z audiences was especially volatile towards retail brands during the pandemic. Since the easing of restrictions however, brand love from these audiences has since peaked, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

The Boomer demographic were the first to show a drop in brand love towards retailers at the start of the pandemic and they have not recovered in the same way. Following a general drop in sentiment across the third and fourth quarter of 2020, their brand love has generally remained low and hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The 35-59 demographic on the other hand has had the strongest recovery, seeing brand love increase by 2.2% between January 2020 and February 2022. Amongst this age group, B&M, Apple, and Etsy were the quickest brands to recover after Autumn 2020, where the sector saw the biggest drop in sentiment. This uptake correlates with an increase in those retail brand’s being perceived as ‘exciting’ and ‘for people like me’.

Brand love in the retail sector has always varied greatly by age; younger consumers often appreciate the value delivered by brands, whilst older consumers are more likely to stick with what they know and pay more for quality.

With increased homeworking igniting a desire to enhance our living and working environments, homeware and DIY brands have fared better than most, experiencing fewer dips in brand love as consumers have spent more time indoors and consequently looked to adapt their homes for lockdown living and remote working. Supported by increased sentiment from the 34-59 age bracket, general stores B&M and Etsy witnessed the strongest uplift across all age groups in brand love following the easing of restrictions. Other DIY brands such as Toolstation and Travis Perkins saw the closest similarity to the aforementioned trend, with brand love initially dipping slightly in 2020 and then peaking post-pandemic.

From our category trend data, we know that leading e-commerce retailers saw a significant increase in demand during the work-from-home era, but interestingly, top-dogs Amazon and eBay experienced brand love decline between January 2020 and February 2022. These brands mostly saw brand love pick up over the third national lockdown, before declining again following the easing of restrictions. Although Amazon seems to be unaffected by the drop in brand love, with the e-commerce giant still being crowned as one of the UK’s Most Loved Retail Brands.

Homeware brands Lakeland, Hammonds, and MADE also performed well across the lockdowns but unlike general stores and discount brands in the sector, they saw brand love drop in January 2021 and haven’t recovered in the same way as the rest of the sector. This suggests that for single-purpose homeware brands, having a range of products on offer is just as important for consumers as offering good value for money.

Whilst the retail sector struggled in Autumn 2020, there was the noticeable exception of Apple who saw brand love remain stable over this period.

In a climate of fierce competition and abundant choice, brands must find a way to build a connection with customers that goes beyond the functional, fostering meaningful brand relationships across generations. Retailers who offer a wide and exciting range and appeal to our circumstances are likely to be those who triumph in this landscape.Download our BrandVue Retail report here to discover the UK’s Top 100 Most Loved Retail Brands in addition to expert analysis on where the industry is heading and what brands can do to become more loved by consumers.

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