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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Big Box Retailers: Price, quality, and location

Nir Kossovsky - Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A big box retailer’s reputation is driven by the price and quality of its products, but not by its propinquity. Such are the data from an analysis prompted by the July 2010 issue of Consumer Reports magazine whose headline reads, “Best stores for practically anything.”

The 2 June press release provides highlights of a survey of 30,000 readers of the consumer-oriented magazine on their big-store shopping preferences. The companies are Costco (NASDAQ:COST), Dillard's Inc. (NYSE:DDS), Kohl's Corporation (NYSE:KSS), JCPenny (NYSE:JCP), Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT), Sam's Club (NYSE:WMT), Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), Macy's Inc. (NYSE:M), Meijer (private), Walmart Stores (NYSE:WMT), and Kmart (NYSE:SHLD). The results of the survey may surprise you. If you are a follower of this blog, the correlation of the results of the survey with the metrics of the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index should not.

According to the magazine, the Consumer Reports ratings are based on the experiences of 30,666 readers who characterized 56,922 trips to 11 retailers between April 2008 to April 2009. The Reader Score represents overall satisfaction. A score of 100 would mean all respondents were completely satisfied; 80 means they were very satisfied on average; 60, fairly well. The results are summarized in the table at left.

In the two charts below, we show the correlation of the consumer survey data with the Corporate Reputation Index metrics. Blog readers are generally familiar with the underpinnings of the rankings. For this analysis, we created a derivative metric, the Reputation Vector. The reputation vector takes three factors into account: the average Corporate Reputation Index ranking over the trailing twelve months; the trend, and the variance. The first graph shows the correlation of the Reader Score for all of the companies with the corresponding Reputation Vector value. The slope is positive, but the explanatory power of the trend line only accounts for about 20% of the variance.

According to the survey, for each of the stores, readers cited their primary reasons for shopping at that venue. The three reasons were low price, high quality products, and location. When the data are analyzed separately, a slightly more interesting pattern emerges. All three trend lines are still positive, but the explanatory powers are radically different. 77% of the variance in Reader Score is explained by variance in the Reputation Vector when shoppers were motivated by price; 100% of the variance is explained by the Reputation Vector when shoppers were motivated by quality (not that meaningful with only two data points); but only 4% of the variance is explained when shoppers were motivated by location.

The data suggest that the overall consumer experience as indicated by the Reader Score correlates well with the financially-relevant derivative metric of Reputation Vector – which captures the behavioral expectations of stakeholders -- when price or quality are the primary drivers of behavior. The moral: “Location, location, location” may still be important, but with so much now accessible through the internet, price and quality are by far more important drivers of reputation and the economic benefits and costs thereon.

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