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The Index: Sports Direct sentiment slumps as John Lewis and M&S find favour
18 May 2020

Sports Direct has seen its "Buzz Score" slump from a positive +8 to -21% over its handling of the closure of its stores at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown while John Lewis and Marks & Spencer are among those who impressed shoppers with their behaviour.

According to's latest edition of its brand and retail tracker The Index, Mike Ashley's group's behaviour left British fashion shoppers unimpressed. The survey was taken among 2,000 shoppers at the start of April, just over a week after lockdown was enforced in the UK and the sports retailer had been attempting to keep its stores open and lobbying the Government at a time when it was in the midst of dealing with the mounting crisis.

Moreover it was then accused of hiking its prices online when it was confirmed that it could not open its physical stores. Mike Ashley made the rare move of issuing a public apology but the negative headlines had done their damage.

The Index

The Buzz Scores Top 10 and the brands in negative equity with consumers

"This was a great shame for Sports Direct as it had slowly been building a net positive sentiment with shoppers and +8% is a very respectable score. We have been saying since the crisis started that companies' reputations could be lost or made during this period so it's crucial that when the time comes to re-open, it's done with more tact that the shutdown.

"Delving behind the numbers though you can see that Sports Direct has most upset an older consumer, which may be the saving grace of the situation as younger consumers are likely to have a more positive view of the company. That being said, its reputation is still more likely to be negative than positive among all age groups so it has a lot of work to do to get back into positive territory. Normally Buzz Scores only move a few percentage points month on month - we've never seen such a dramatic shift," said Editor in Chief Lauretta Roberts.

Buzz Scores are calculated by netting of positive and negative consumer sentiment and The has been tracking this metric, along with which stores are attracting the most customers and which are converting those into sales, every month.

At the positive end of the Buzz Score chart, retailers who made significant gains include online marketplace Farfetch, which has been supporting independent retailers though the crisis. It's Buzz Score rose from just +2% to +10%.

John Lewis COVID-19

Elsewhere John Lewis, which was quick to announce a number of charitable initiatives even before its stores were forced to close, saw its Buzz Score increase by four percentage points from 17% to 21%. This is significant as before the crisis the retailer's Buzz had been slowly going backwards.

Marks & Spencer, thanks to its multiple charitable initiatives and pay rises for staff working during the crisis, made its way into the Top 10 best scorers list for the first time with a score of +14%.

At the top of the tree remains Amazon, which increased its score from 20% to 26% as the company has proved its worth during the crisis as a lifeline for many households.

The Index is produced in partnership with Klarna, and each month it is published in two parts. The first explores the formats, sectors and channels fashion shoppers prefer and the second looks at 100 specific brands. The reports can be accessed for free here.

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