/ SAcsi

SA clothing retailers record much lower customer satisfaction scores

As sports apparel customers are more satisfied

Customers of South African clothing retail outlets have indicated substantially lower satisfaction with the retailers than last year. SA retailers scored a rating of 75.5 out of 100 – down 6.8 points from last year’s score - according to the South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) released today.

The clothing retail outlets included in the industry measure were Pep Stores, Woolworths, Jet, Mr Price, Truworths, Edgars and a category which combined “other retail stores”. Although Pep Stores received the highest score, Woolworths and “other retail stores” also achieved industry leadership positions by recording scores higher than the industry average. Pep scored 5.7 points higher than the industry average, Woolworths scored 3.2 points above the average and the category of “other specialty retail stores” scored 2.9 points above the average. Jet, Mr Price and Truworths scored on par with the industry and Edgars scored below par at 2.8 points lower than the average.

“The SAcsi rates brands based on what their customers have to say about the brand. Pep Stores has improved since last year and scored highest in terms of perceived value, which played a role in achieving its industry leadership position,” says Prof. Adré Schreuder, founder and chair of the SAcsi.

However, Prof. Schreuder is concerned that customers are significantly less satisfied overall. “A number of major retailers had store revamps during the past year and the brands have made efforts to provide better experiences for their customers, but the retail clothing sector is volatile and affected by the broader economic environment and it is therefore important for clothing retailers to clearly understand the needs of their customers,” he says.

“We have seen significant drops in expectations and loyalty scores overall. In fact, the Net Promoter Score (a well-known metric for measuring loyalty which tracks how likely customers are to recommend a brand) has declined by between 5% and 31% across the various clothing retailers since last year,” he says.

The SAcsi is an independent national benchmark of customer satisfaction of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in South Africa. The data for this release was collected between April and June 2014 using both telephonic and web-based surveys. A total of 1,957 customers of clothing retailers were consulted.

Sports apparel

Customers of sports apparel rated their satisfaction at 84.2 out of 100. The brands measured were Adidas, Nike, Puma and a combined category of “other” brands. There was no clear winner in this industry.

“Last year we measured sports shoes, but this year we broadened the category to sports apparel. As such, the results are not directly comparable, though the overall satisfaction has also declined from last year’s sports shoes score. Sports apparel seems to have the ability to better handle the downward trend we are seeing with clothing retailers, which relates to high scores for perceived quality and could also be partly due to the growing trends towards healthier lifestyles,” explained Prof. Schreuder.

SAcsi holds a licence with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and forms part of a growing number of ACSI-licensed partner countries worldwide, which allows South Africa to compare its industries’ customer satisfaction with this global community. “Through this proven methodology, SAcsi serves as the voice of customers to the major industry players in the South African market,” says Prof. Schreuder.

SA customer satisfaction with clothing retailers is comparable to Singapore’s rating in this category. Kuwait serves as the industry benchmark internationally, with a score of 82 out of 100, followed by the USA (80) and Singapore (75.2).

The score for sports apparel cannot be directly compared against international scores. In the USA, satisfaction is measured separately for apparel (79) and sports shoes (81).

About the research methodology

Each company was measured through telephonic and web-survey methods at a statistically reliable sample of at least 270 respondents per company. Brands were selected based on market share.

For the clothing retail industry the total sample was 1,957 randomly selected respondents who had recently visited a retail outlet of the included brands, while the sport apparel sample was 1,195.

Customer satisfaction is measured using an advanced statistical model that has been rigorously evaluated, in line with the American Customer Satisfaction Index methodology.

“The fact that companies are choosing to subscribe to SAcsi to receive statistically sound information speaks volumes about the credibility of the index. This is not research that is commissioned for marketing purposes, it is used as the basis for strategic management decisions,” says Schreuder.

The model combines three drivers of customer satisfaction: customer expectations, perceived quality and perceived value. The calculated customer satisfaction index is statistically linked to two outcomes: customer complaints and customer loyalty. The industry model can predict the outcome of changes in customer loyalty with a great degree of accuracy.