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Barnes & Noble tops list of 10 most reputable U.S. retailers

BY Marianne Wilson

The nation’s largest bookseller may be struggling financially, but it’s tops when it comes to making an emotional connection with consumers.

The “unique emotional bond” Barnes & Noble has with the public helped it earn the only excellent rating, and the No. 1 ranking in the Reputation Institute’s US Retail RepTrak 2019, which studied the reputation of the best-known U.S. retailers. The annual study considered 81 nominated retailers across seven RepTrak criteria: products/services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership, and performance. (List of top 10 companies at end of article.)

Despite several years during which Barnes & Noble, which operates 627 stores nationwide, had several turnaround strategies designed to keep pace with the likes of Amazon.com and other retailers, the company is the only U.S. retailer to have maintained an “excellent” rating for three straight years. All other companies included in the 2019 study earned a “strong” reputation rating.

“Despite its challenges over the past few years, perceptions of Barnes & Noble remain strong and stable across all seven business drivers — and are actually improving,” said Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer at Reputation Institute, a global technology-driven provider of reputation measurement and management services. “What separates Barnes & Noble from other retailers is the depth of strong emotional connection it still has with the general public.” (Barnes & Noble was recently acquired by British hedge firm Elliott Advisors.)

In other findings from this year’s report:

• Amazon ranked second in last year’s US Retail RepTrak, but did not make this year’s top 10 reputable retailers list. While the public’s level of trust and admiration for Amazon.com is in decline, the company still earned a strong rating due primarily to its strong financial performance and its prospects for growth.

• While the areas of products and services still matter, their importance is declining and being overtaken by the importance of a workplace that treats employees fairly and is concerned about employee health and well-being.

• The retail industry’s performance in the areas of governance and citizenship — corporate responsibility — is improving but has room for enhancement given an overall average score.

The top 10 most reputable U.S. retailers in the US Retail RepTrak 2019 study are:

• Barnes & Noble
• Costco Wholesale Corp.
• Bass Pro Shops
• Menards
• Carter’s
• Ace Hardware
• Lowe’s
• AutoZone
• Kroger
• Albertsons

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