Harris Poll: What's in a retail brand? Millennial loyalty

NEW YORK — Millennials are breathing life into retail brands, according to new research from the Harris Poll. Compared with older generations, millennials award higher brand equity to all retail categories assessed, except hardware and home stores, which is favored by baby boomers.

"Strong brand equity — including greater familiarity with your brand, a greater bond with your brand, a better-perceived quality of your brand — translates into a larger share of wallet," stated Joan Sinopoli, VP brand solutions at the Harris Poll. "It's no secret that the retail industry is undergoing tremendous challenges, but knowing how to best cater to different customer segments is critical. As a result, several retailers are working to revamp their stores into 'millennial playgrounds' to help woo and wow desired customers."

According to the Harris Poll's research, while brand equity in the retail category has held steady over time, a different pattern emerges when millennials are singled out versus baby boomers. Sporting goods store brand equity is 7.7 points higher among millennials compared to baby boomers, while luxury department stores (+5.6) and electronics stores (+5.7) are nearly 6 points higher. Millennials' brand equity score for off-price retailers is 4.9 points higher compared with baby boomers, while footwear and department stores are 4 points and 3.8 points higher, respectively.

Only hardware and home stores (-3.8) have lower brand equity among millennials compared with baby boomers.

"Several retailers are working to revamp their stores into 'millennial playgrounds' to help woo and wow desired customers. ”

The EquiTrend Brand Equity Index comprises three factors — Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration — that result in a brand equity rating for each brand. Brands ranking highest in equity receive the Harris Poll EquiTrend "Brand of the Year" award for their respective categories.

Nordstrom held on to the Luxury Department Store Brand of the Year title for the second consecutive year, but the Ivanka Trump controversy seems to have had an impact. Nordstrom's decline in brand equity among conservatives contributed to a decline in brand equity overall. Among liberal-leaning consumers, Nordstrom's brand equity rose slightly; among conservative-leaning consumers, Nordstrom's brand equity declined four points.

This year marks the Home Depot's fifth consecutive Brand of the Year award, with familiarity as its key equity distinction. As many as 96% of consumers are familiar with The Home Depot. Baby boomers give the equity advantage to the Home Depot, with stronger quality and purchase consideration marks compared with younger consumers.

Kohl's, Department Store Brand of the Year 2012–2015, reclaims its title from Macy's. Although the retailer has lower familiarity ratings than J.C. Penney and Sears, it shows higher marks overall for quality and purchase consideration. Gen X consumers push Kohl's to its higher equity score, with higher familiarity and purchase consideration ratings.

TJ Maxx, Off-Price Retailer Brand of the Year, and Best Buy, Electronics Store Brand of the Year, maintain their titles for the second consecutive year, and TJ Maxx received its highest equity score ever (67). With consumers consistently seeking deals, outlets are a popular option, but Harris Poll data found TJ Maxx besting some of the more luxury outlet options.

Dick's Sporting Goods reclaimed its Sporting Goods Store Brand of the Year honor from Cabela's; Dick's was also Brand of the Year in 2015. Dick's equity is driven by millennials and Gen X consumers.

And DSW is Footwear Store Brand of the Year for the fourth consecutive year, helped by stable quality and purchase consideration ratings.

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