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Most shoppers still trust grocery retailers—despite bread price scandal

New survey finds 86% of consumers satisfied with their grocer

While Canada’s largest grocery retailers have been accused of illegally conspiring to overcharge consumers for bread for 14 years, most of those consumers still feel good about shopping at those retailers, according to a new survey.

In fact, 13% of Canadians feel better about their grocery store after finding out about the alleged price fixing.

“It looks like Canadians are giving their grocers a second chance to make things right,” said Daniel Tisch, CEO of Toronto-based PR agency Argyle Public Relationships.

READ: Court documents name players allegedly involved in bread price-fixing scheme

The survey of more than 1,500 Canadians by research firm Leger for Argyle’s third annual Public Relationships Index, found a strong majority of respondents, 86%, said they are very or somewhat satisfied with the grocer they use most often and 79% said they trust that retailer.

Canadians feel better about their grocers than any of the other categories Leger and Argyle survey about: banks, credit cards, airlines, insurance companies, communications providers and professional sports teams.

“No industry has been better than the grocery sector at building relationships with Canadians,” said Tisch.

READ: New survey gauges consumer reaction to bread price-fixing scheme

Canada’s grocery retailers have spent a long time building relationships with their customers, they’ve generally been perceived as good corporate citizens who care about their customers and their communities, he said. That good will appears to be helping them weather the recent storm arising from allegations of bread price fixing.

The bread story has had an impact on customer trust levels but not as severely as might have been expected.

Asked specifically about bread price-fixing, 9% of respondents said the bread price-fixing allegations “significantly worsened” their views of their grocery retailer, while 24% said it “somewhat worsened” their view. (When asked first about trust levels without specific mention of the bread allegations, just 22% of respondents said their trust had decreased in the last six months. That number rose to 33% when reminded of the bread price fixing.)

And 13% of respondents said the allegations actually improved their view of their grocery retailer, 5% said significantly, and 8% said somewhat. Another 47% said it had no real effect on how they view their grocer. The survey did not explore why the respondents feel the way they do, but it seems likely the neutral to positive sentiment comes from Canadians either believing their retailer was not involved or, if they were, their retailer has addressed the problem responsibly.

“I think what it does show is the importance of investing over the long term in ones’ public relationships because they really influence its reputations,” said Tisch. “Relationships create resilience.”

READ: Grocers must focus on consumers in wake of bread price fixing

Argyle created what it calls its Public Relationships Index based on six dimensions between brands and consumers: trust; satisfaction; perceived commitment to meet expectations; caring for customers (“exchange relationship”); concern for people; and people’s perception of their ability to influence the brand.

The index assesses respondent sentiment in those key areas to arrive at a score out of 100. The 10 major grocery brands included, all scored very similarly in a narrow range between 74 and 68. Sobeys and IGA both topped the list at 74, while No Frills at 68 and Loblaws, at 70, sat at the bottom of the list.

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