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Brand reputation post-COVID-19: Brits plan future shopping based on retailers’ response

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Nearly half (45%) of UK adults plan to buy from certain brands and retailers less in the future specifically because of how those companies have responded to the current pandemic, with Sports Direct and Wetherspoons suffering as Tesco grows in favourability, according to new research.

Brand reputation post-COVID-19: Brits plan future shopping based on retailers’ response

Shoppers are taking note of how retail brands are behaving during COVID-19 and say that they are planning their future purchases accordingly.

The tracker study, which canvasses more than 2,000 UK consumers, shows the retail brands negatively cited most often by shoppers. The hall of shame, in order, includes:

  • Sports Direct

  • Wetherspoon

  • Tesco

Also, according to the survey, nearly half (44%) of UK adults have already changed which retailers they buy from because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of those, one in six (16%) say they made the switch because they didn’t like the retailer’s response to COVID-19 – rising to 26% of Gen-Z (aged 16-24) and 24% of millennials aged 25-34.

The study, commissioned by shopper agency SMP, noted that 50% also said they would go more often to certain retailers in the future because of how positively they responded to the pandemic. The hall of fame includes, in order:

  • Tesco

  • Asda

  • Amazon

Peter Martin, group managing director at SMP, comments: “COVID-19 has shone a harsh light on the UK’s high street. In an age of Twitter and online news, shoppers have been able to gauge retailer reaction to this unprecedented situation in real time – and they’re letting their hearts lead their wallets.

“Some very big retail names have received acclaim for their swift reaction to the pandemic, especially with regard to how they treat key workers, while others have already been lambasted in the court of public opinion.

“It is also likely that Tesco’s sheer scale puts it on both the good and bad lists, with thousands of stores and home delivery options keeping people stocked with groceries during this difficult time, while also potentially leading to frustrations for some, over access to delivery slots and queueing.

“What’s clear is that brand values and behaviour have become important in a way we’ve never seen before. People see how brands act when the chips are down, and many seem willing to change their shopping preferences accordingly.”


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