Brick & Mortar Retail Brands Beat Out Online Counterparts

Harris Poll

As online retailing has become a force to be reckoned with in the retail industry, a close look at how brand equity varies for brick and mortar vs. online brands beckons. Measuring many online retail brands for the first time in the 2013 Harris Poll EquiTrend Study shows that where EquiTrend measures the brick and mortar and E-retailer, or “E-tailer,” sides of a single brand, the E-tailer side lags. The study, which assesses more than 1,500 brands across over 155 categories, specifically looks at key retail sectors including: e-retailers, hardware and home merchandisers and mass merchandisers.

With the growing competition from across all sectors in which it competes, brands like Target, Best Buy, Walmart and others are looking to understand how to better compete against this ubiquitous retailer. Results from the 2013 study show that many retailers have a way to go; specifically, for most brands measured, the local store outperforms its online counterpart. Retail brands with the largest gap between brand equity scores for their brick and mortar and their corresponding online brands include Target, Office Depot, Walgreens and Best Buy.

“There are many reasons why a consumer would choose to visit a location-based retailer over their online counterpart, including convenience, selection and immediate needs,” says Lisa Mulyk, Vice President at Harris Interactive. “Most of all, shoppers tend to want to interact with the physical merchandise prior to purchasing it, and the 2013 EquiTrend data shows us that while consumers are shopping online, their brand experience when doing so tends to be lower than their in-store experience.”

On Target for the third year running
For the third year in a row, Target is top ranked and, for 2013, earned the Mass Merchandiser Brand of the Year award. Target has been at the top of its category since pulling ahead of Walmart back in 2007.

“While both Target and Walmart are frequently shopped, Target has a strong position in Consumer Connection, which is comprised of four key predictive metrics: Emotion, Fit, Trust and Performance,” explains Mulyk. “And, while Target has a strong score in the forward looking Brand Momentum metric, Walmart also performs well – showing that Target needs to keep their eye on their competition going forward.”

While Walmart follows behind Target among the brick and mortar mass merchandisers, it nevertheless outperforms the category average; what’s more, beats out in the newly minted online retail category to become the 2013 Online Mass Merchandiser Brand of the Year.

Kohl’s leads brick and mortar and online department store categories
In the second year of this award category, Kohl’s once again earns the Department Store Brand of the Year title, with strong Quality and Purchase Consideration scores. Macy’s moves into the second spot for the first time, with their study-high Brand equity score driven by category-high Quality ratings and Purchase Consideration scores that continue to rise. After a significant decline in 2012, JCPenney’s score remains flat year over year.

“Macy’s rise into second place pushes JCPenney into third,” says Mulyk. “This is the first time against these competitors that JCPenney has not been ranked in the top or second spot.”

Mirroring the story among brick and mortar department stores, Kohl’s is the top ranked Online Department Store; Macy’s and JCPenney round out the brands above the category average.

Staples is also top ranked in two categories
One of the few retail brands to be top ranked in both its respective brick and mortar and online categories is Staples. Both Staples and take the top ranking in their office supply categories and are Brands of the Year. Office Depot also finishes above the category average among brick and mortar office supply retailers.

Click here for full retail sector results, including the following additional retail categories:

  • 2013 Luxury Department Store Brand of the YearSaks Department Store Other brands measured: Bloomingdale’s Department Store, Lord & Taylor Department Store, Neiman Marcus Department Store, Nordstrom Department Store
  • 2013 Off-Price Retailer Brand of the YearMarshalls Stores Other brands measured – Burlington Coat Factory, Ross Stores, T.J.Maxx Stores
  • 2013 Value Retailer Brand of the YearDollar Tree Other brands measured – Big Lots, Dollar General Store, Family Dollar Store, 99 Cents Only Store
  • 2013 Warehouse Club Brand of the YearCostco Other brands measured – BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc, Sam’s Club
  • 2013 Online Deal Brand of the Other brands measured –,,,, Google Offers, Groupon, LivingSocial,
  • 2013 Hardware & Home Store Brand of the YearThe Home Depot Other brands measured – Ace Hardware, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Menard, True Value


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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.