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Consumers Wouldn’t Care if These Fashion Brands Went Out of Business

They say love and hate go hand in hand, and it turns out that consumers’ feelings about their favorite stores are no exception.

According to a newly released annual report from retail solutions firm WD Partners entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” many of retail’s leading players are also reviled by consumers.

Online juggernaut Amazon is the most quintessential example of this strange paradigm. The majority (55 percent) of Americans are Amazon Prime members, and for the past three years, the company has outclassed all of the study’s best-ranked or “Good” brands (including Walmart, Target, Costco, Apple and more) by about a 50 percent average margin.

But Amazon’s numbers have backslid by just a beat since 2018, dropping 7 percent year over year. The company is still 23 percent ahead of its closest competitor, The Home Depot, and one fifth (20 percent) of consumers named it Best Retailer in 2019. But Amazon also appears on the list of Worst Retailers, revealing that consumers who shop on the platform have mixed feelings about doing so.

Amazon and Walmart continue to tussle for consumer awareness and loyalty, with the big-box behemoth battling to offer comparable products, pricing and shipping options to American shoppers. Walmart beats Amazon in brand awareness by just a hair, with a little under 95 percent of consumers demonstrating considerable familiarity with both companies.

Lucky for the online giant, Walmart (which has emerged over the past year as Amazon’s most aggressive competitor) also ranks on the list of Worst Retailers, taking the No. 1 spot with nearly a quarter (24 percent) of the overall vote. That’s 22 points above Amazon, which inspired just 2 percent of consumers’ ire.

In fact, Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s are also on both lists, proving that “consumers have a love/hate relationship” with many of the country’s most popular, household-name brands, analysts said. The only Best Retailers that aren’t also on the Worst Retailers list are Costco, Best Buy, and Nordstrom. According to surveyed consumers, Worst-ranked retailers demonstrate sub-par employee training and customer service.

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When broken down by generational cohorts, Amazon leads with increasingly powerful Gen Z consumers, as well as high-spending millennials, who are now aging into position for peak purchasing power.

In fact, Amazon was ranked top brand of five by every generation surveyed, including Gen X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. Walmart, by contrast, misses the mark with Gen Z entirely, and only ranks second to Amazon with Gen X, ages 39-54.

While Amazon’s survey results were mixed, the retailer can take solace in the fact that other highly ranked brands have also lost favorability with consumers over the past year. The Home Depot, Target and Walmart all took hits in rankings, suggesting that retail on the whole, and not just individual brands, is responsible for disappointing consumers.

It’s not just large-scale retailers that are getting the cold shoulder. Some once beloved specialty stores are also falling out of favor, earning spots on the report’s “Ugly” list. The harsh moniker is reserved for brands and retailers that consumers say they wouldn’t miss in the event that they went out of business.

Once the wunderkind of athleisure apparel, Lululemon’s Ugly score jumped about 10 percentage points since 2017, with about 55 percent of consumers now saying that the store’s customer service, quality, prices and employees are failing to retain their interest or loyalty.

Perhaps the most notable specialty retailer on the Ugly list is Urban Outfitters, which jumped 8 percentage points year over year, despite the company’s manifold efforts to maintain relevancy with its young base. New “UO Spaces” locations bring consumers lifestyle experiences with food, local goods and events, while UO-owned clothing rental service Nuuly (launched this summer) attempts to capitalize on exploding interest in rentals and resale.

Even through these changes, though, the company’s second quarter earnings were deeply lackluster, with profits sliding 35 percent.

Long-standing shopping mall staples like Express, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister all earned spots near the top of the Ugly list. WD Partners analysts pointed out Express’ particular challenges in trying to re-frame its business in 21st century terms. The 600-store fashion brand has made a massive effort to push e-commerce, but net sales are still consistently down.

Analysts at WD Partners posited that some fashion brands could simply be reaching an inevitable saturation point, and consumer interest has begun to dwindle. With an influx of new direct-to-consumer startups boasting fresh, innovative products and business models, recapturing shoppers’ love and loyalty may be an order too tall for those unable to evolve.