Study Ranks Canada’s Most Trusted Retailers, and One Dominates 

By Craig Patterson

Market research firm BrandSpark International recently surveyed more than 5,000 Canadian consumers and asked them which retailers they trusted the most in major retail categories in e-commerce and brick & mortar. Some traditional retailers made the list as expected, but it was Amazon’s dominance in the study’s e-commerce categories that might have some retailers concerned. 

"The BrandSpark Most Trusted Awards program gives shoppers a chance to understand which retailers are trusted by other Canadians. This allows everyone to make better purchase decisions because being trusted is the greatest indicator of which retailers are delivering the most value and best experience to consumers," said Robert Levy, President of BrandSpark International. "These endorsements are especially useful for shoppers who don't regularly shop the category – particularly in e-commerce where many shoppers are still learning where the most trusted places are to shop online."

BrandSpark surveyed more than 5,000 respondents online to determine what retailers were most trustworthy, using "top of mind" unaided responses. Results were ranked based on the greatest volume of mentions — and if the difference between retailers nationally was less than three percent, ties were declared, says BrandSpark

Photo:  123RF

Photo: 123RF

Ikea, The Home Depot, and Shell secured top rankings in Home Furniture, Major Home Appliances, and Gas Station categories — BrandSpark says that changes in the retail landscape have altered consumer trust in this sector.

The study ranked e-commerce retailers utilizing its methodology, and there were some interesting findings. About 41% of Canadian respondents said that they plan to do more shopping online this year (only 5% said they’d do less). Hot on the heels of last week’s Amazon Prime Day, which saw record-breaking sales numbers for the 36-hour period, BrandSpark noted that "In November 2016, 11% of the Canadian population had an Amazon Prime membership. As of last month, that number had risen to 1 in 4 Canadians, even before the bulk of Amazon's 2018 Prime Day communication. In comparison, over 50% of households in the United States hold a Prime membership, which may be a sign of where things are heading for Amazon in Canada."

According to the BrandSpark research, the three main reasons consumers shop online are lower prices, convenience and selection. Amazon won 13 of 26 e-commerce categories in the study, as ranked in the chart below. 


In the e-commerce category, several specialized retailers also ranked highly in the study. Those retailers include Best Buy, Sephora, PetSmart, and The Home Depot, all of which are examples of traditional brick & mortar stores that have successfully built an omni-channel presence. "If other retailers want to catch up with Amazon in their category, they need to stay top-of-mind as their customers move online, and deliver the online browsing experience, selection, value, and service required to be shoppers' go-to destination in the category," said Mr. Levy.


BrandSpark notes that following the demise of Sears Canada, The Home Depot has been successful by going from the third Most Trusted Major Appliance Retailer to the number one within this category. As well, Ikea jumped from third place in the Furniture category to now being tied with two long-standing Canadian brands — The Brick and Leon's. BrandSpark says that Ikea's growth in trust-ranking can be attributed to the retailer’s “ability to stay ahead of emerging style trends while maintaining reasonable prices, two things that savvy millennial shoppers seek out in a brand”. 

In the Gas Station category, Shell moved up the ranking to tie with last year’s winner, Petro-Canada. BrandSpark notes that Shell is a foreign company based in the Netherlands and has managed to gain a share in a category that has been dominated by well-established Canadian brands. About half of the most trusted general retailers in Canada are Canadian companies, according to BrandSpark, which is down about 10% from last year. This is indicative of the growing strength of international brick & mortar retail brands in Canada, which is only expected to increase as Canada sees a record number of international retailers enter the country by opening both physical as well as online stores. 

Below is this year’s category rankings for brick & mortar retailers: 

"Canadians say their trust in a brand is greatly increased by personal experience, responsiveness, transparency, fair pricing, and the endorsements of other consumers," said Mr. Levy. When it comes to serious issues, the BrandSpark Canadian Shopper Study shows that it is important that a brand respond quickly. About 73% of consumers surveyed said a speedy response greatly increased their trust in a brand. Transparency is also important — according to the study, 56% of respondents agree that brands that provide detailed information about their product or service earn trust, with 49% of respondents saying trust is built when they see unfiltered customer reviews on a brand’s website.

Online reviews are more important than ever — a majority of respondents said that they now seek reviews to support their purchase decisions, and they read both positive and negative reviews to get a more complete picture. Furthermore, without this information, many respondents said that they would not complete a transaction. About 85% of respondents stated that their trust in a brand increases if the brand has won awards based on the feedback of consumers and furthermore, pricing also influences trust, with consistent and competitive pricing said to be more likely to be perceived as “fair and honest”. 

BrandSpark also conducts research for its ‘Most Trusted awards’ in over 150 consumer product categories and services. All of the winners can be found at

Craig Patterson, now based in Toronto, is the founder and Editor-in-Chief Retail Insider. He's also a retail and real estate consultant, retail tour guide and public speaker. 

Follow him on Twitter @RetailInsider_, LinkedIn at Craig Patterson, or email him at:

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