Department stores struggling despite consumer affection, YouGov reveals


Last year was challenging for retailers, with numerous profit warnings, store closures and job losses. Familiar high street names such as Toys R Us disappeared completely, with many blaming online shopping for the decline.

Despite this, some bricks-and-mortar brands continued to perform well under the same conditions, such as IKEA, Primark and Next.

To find out why some brands are succeeding and others aren’t, YouGov looked at the link between consumer perception and a brand’s fortune in its latest whitepaper, ‘Is there still hope for the high street?’

Department stores such as John Lewis, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser, have been hard hit by online rivals with smaller overheads despite being British high street mainstays for a century or more. When compared to other high street retailers, all four department stores have higher quality and satisfaction scores than the average high street retail sector as a whole.

However, overall brand health of the stores* has been slowly declining since 2013 due to slipping consumer perception of value for money, which is essential for retailers to retain a customer base. Retailers with the largest drops in quality perception over the past year are Toys R Us (-8), Maplin (-4), Homebase (-4), WH Smith (-3), and House of Fraser (-3), all of which have suffered financial difficulties, store closures or both.

Commenting on the research, Richard Moller, director of custom research, said: “The past year has been difficult for the high street, and it’s the larger, more respected brands such as our department stores that have seemed to have suffered more than expected.

“Our data and analysis shows that these brands are struggling due to decline in consumer perception of value for money, which is something a historic legacy and general affection for the brand from the public would struggle to replace.”