The retail industry has been crying into its cornflakes for the past few years as the perfect storm of recession, the rise of e-commerce and, more recently, massive natural disasters, has battered the sector. But according to brand consultancy Interbrand, which has just released its inaugural Best Retail Brands report, there are "true and measurable signs of optimism" in what is likely to be a fragile recovery.
Interbrand has been compiling a list of the 100 Best Global Brands for the past 11 years by calculating their brand value (high-profile tech firms dominated the last round), and the retail report does the same, ranking the top 50 U.S. retail brands by brand value, as well as the top retail brands from Asia Pacific, Canada, the U.K., France, Germany and Spain.
Woolworths came out on top as the most valuable brand in Asia Pacific, followed by Uniqlo, Harvey Norman, David Jones and Myer. In the US, the top five was made up of Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Best Buy and CVS, and in the UK it was dominated by supermarkets, with Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Boots, ASDA and Next on top.
Interbrand New Zealand managing director James Bickford says Woolworths, which operates under the Countdown brand in New Zealand, deserves its top tier position in Asia Pacific and that brand-led companies are proving to be resilient in an environment characterised by rapid change.
“In New Zealand, Woolworths is a retail business that delivers a true experience and intuitive brand culture. The recent rebrand [to Countdown] was bold, daring and a game changer. ‘Shop Smarter New Zealand’ delivers the brand that cares and that can tell a story. Its corporate responsibility and sustainability programs show sector leadership and commitment, not just green washing. The ‘Woolies’ brand of our grandmothers has re-invented itself for a brighter future."
In Asia Pacific, he says shoppers are becoming smarter, savvier and more demanding.
"Brands like Woolworths and [Japanese home appliance retailer] Yamada Denki are attracting customers by offering superior quality at a reasonable price. The increased use of the internet is also irreversibly shifting power to the shopper, though local retailers have a lot to learn from their global competitors in terms of creating differentiating experiences to engage and maintain customer relationships."
The most prominent global retail trends gaining relevancy across the sector include:
Digital Growth: Technology is shaping new opportunities and consumers want their retail experience to be as seamless as possible.
Human Presence: Brands with genuine character, definite core values, and a concern for community are likely to profit the most. Corporate citizenship practices are becoming more common and hold the promise of becoming differentiating factors in the decision-making process.
Global expansion: Retail brands must view their competition as both local and global. Many retailers are establishing an international presence, while multichannel initiatives are becoming a crucial to develop segmented markets.