LONDON: Supermarkets are more effective at meeting the needs of consumers than their counterparts in any other category in the UK retail sector.

GI Insight, the research firm, surveyed 1,000 adults and reported that stores selling products that command rapid repeat purchase - such as in the grocery segment - generally had the best reputation.

Companies which offered attractive loyalty schemes and delivered consistent levels of customer contact also performed strongly on this measure.

Overall, supermarkets - of which Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda are among the leading examples in the UK - were seen as having the most nuanced understanding of their clientele, with a score 26% above the average.

Female participants to GI Insight's poll were even more positive in their appraisal of these businesses, awarding them a figure that was some 33% higher than the baseline for the retail industry as a whole.

The marketing and communications strategies employed by these corporations were argued to clearly demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of their target audience.

As a result, respondents typically afforded them a status similar to that of a "good friend", rather than as an "acquaintance" or "total stranger".

"Supermarkets are undoubtedly the stars of customer intimacy," said Andy Wood, managing director at GI Insight.

"This outcome is clearly related to the vast amount of information they hold on their customers, which they use to assess spending habits and react to sudden changes in purchasing habits."

In contrast, fashion specialists received an index rating of just 103 points, where 100 points was indicative of the norm.

Shoppers in the 18–24 year old demographic were the most enthusiastic about apparel chains, awarding the stores 121 points.

But this score fell to 88 points for the 45–54 year old cohort, who felt like "total strangers" in the stores.

"Very few fashion retailers have true database marketing and/or loyalty programmes that encompass the whole business," said Wood.

"As the UK emerges from recession, it is critical for retailers to ... tailor offers and communications that are seen as relevant and welcomed by customers, thus helping with retention, cross-selling and up-selling."

Data sourced from Talking Retail; additional content by Warc staff