Companies that refused to shut their doors through the pandemic have won consumer trust, with retailers emerging as the big winners in the latest Roy Morgan report.
The Australian economy increased by a stunning 9.6 per cent over the year to June 2021, its fastest annual growth in modern history, and this strong growth supported a retail sales boom on the back of record government support for the economy.
The top four most trusted brands again comprise some of Australia’s leading retail brands led by Woolworths, Coles, Bunnings Warehouse and Aldi.
Notably, there have also been four big improvers in the June quarter 2021, with department stores Kmart, Myer, Big W and Target all improving their standing as some of Australia’s most trusted brands.
Kmart has entered the top five, both Myer and Big W are new entrants to the top 10, and Target jumped seven spots in the quarter to be just outside the top 10.
Roy Morgan data scientists analysed nominations from more than 20,000 Australians to identify the nation’s 20 most trusted brands, and 20 most distrusted brands.
Retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer from the Queensland University of Technology said the supermarkets’ ability to stay open and keep stocking shelves reassured customers – despite how much we like to complain about them.
“In Australia, we do tend to adopt a tall poppy syndrome. We like to regularly criticise the big retailers, airline and insurance providers, and yet these are often the brands we trust the most,” Professor Mortimer said.
“The reason why we see the three big supermarkets in the top five is that they really helped us through COVID.
“They remained open, they bent over backwards to make sure their stores were full, and food products were delivered.”
It wasn’t just about staying open, but about keeping people in jobs.
“I think the pandemic has got the public to think about the role retailers play and how integrated into our lives they are.”
No banks, but Qantas stays on top despite job losses
Qantas, despite shedding staff over the past 12 months, only dropped one place, but Professor Mortimer said it would be hard to knock it out altogether.
“Quants has always been accredited as the world’s safest airline, and when you’re considered the safest, you have a strong level of trust,” he said.
“And Aussie consumers empathise with Qantas and Alan Joyce. They understand this is an airline forced to shut down because of COVID and no fault of their own.”
It was a surprise no banks made the list or fast-food restaurants, he said.
“You would normally expect one or two big banks. It is surprising. Other than NRMA, there are no big insurance providers.
“And there’s no fast food. That’s surprising because they’ve been open throughout the entire pandemic.”
Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said department stores had become big winners from the pandemic, with Australians turning to the retail industry to splash their cash as they are unable to travel or enjoy live entertainment as much.
However, she added that the latest lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne point to a challenging period ahead as Australia looks to ‘live with COVID’ for the first time.
“This new ‘COVID-normal’ will provide a challenging environment for retailers that rely heavily on personal interactions between staff and customers,” Ms Levine said.
“The big question facing retailers is how they manage the questions of vaccination mandates for staff and vaccination passports for customers without destroying the trust they’ve built up over the past year.
“These questions are front and centre for many businesses approaching a post-pandemic ‘COVID-normal’.
“But retailers, in particular, will face the sharp edge of these issues with the high level of interactions between staff and customers they deal with every day of the week.”