Reitmans and Simons top Leger retailer survey

The brands created the best in-store (Ontario) and online shopping experiences (Canada) during the pandemic.


Leger’s annual WOW study – which measures the customer experience at over 200 brands in collaboration with the Retail Council of Canada – recognized Reitmans as the top retailer for in-store, as well as Simons for its online offerings.


Leger surveyed 13,000 Ontarians, who assessed the in-store experience at 145 retailers across 20 different sectors. The research firm assigned each company an index score based on performance indicators such as product quality and variety, competitive pricing, staff courtesy/helpfulness, efficiency at checkout, but also store ambience, layout and customization, as well as a sense of belonging.

Luc Dumont, VP, CPG at Leger said the retailers that stood out had expanded their omnichannel and curbside offerings in 2020. “Shoppers are now mission-based rather than browsing-based,” Dumont says, adding that, thanks to the pandemic, one in four will research online first so they can spend as little time inside stores as possible.

According to Dumont, Reitman’s success is a result of its brand ambassadors, who helped create a welcoming environment, as well as how it communicated safety messaging at the onset of COVID.

Dumont says top-performing retail brands like Reitmans and MEC understood how to make people feel safe inside their stores, which consumers responded well to. “Reitmans was very open to their customer [in saying], ‘This is what we are doing, and this is how it will make it easy for you to comply.’”

Lush (#2, down from #1 in 2019) and The Body Shop (#3, up from #21) landed at the top of the ranks largely because of their ability to create a welcoming environment, availability of products and knowledge/advice, according to the survey.

Cannabis brand Fire & Flower (#7), a first time entry, was named a top retailer thanks to employee competence and engagement. Ontarians responded well to Lego (#5), which had improved its product availability as consumers looked for activities to do during the lockdown.

Yves Rocher is the only brand to crack both the in-store and online customer experience lists; it topped the former after widening its product offerings, focusing on new higher-quality SKUs, says Dumont.

Longo’s also made big strides – moving up from #3 in 2019 to #1 in the Food category, ahead of Whole Foods and Farm Boy – as a result of efficiency at checkout, as well as its efforts around sanitation and layout changes to address the consumer need for safety during the pandemic.

Top 12 retailers with the best in-store CX:

  1. Reitmans
  2. Lush
  3. The Body Shop
  4. Saje Natural Wellness
  5. Lego
  6. MEC
  7. Fire & Flower Cannabis Co
  8. M&M Food Market
  9. Bath & Body Works
  10. Yves Rocher
  11. Nespresso
  12. Lee Valley Tools


The WOW study also evaluated the online customer experience, measuring 22 dimensions of the experience across 173 websites and apps. A total of 14,000 Canadians assessed the strengths and weaknesses at each stage of online shopping, from the transaction to merchandise returns.

The index looks at visual appeal, pricing, variety, availability, what’s new, discoverability, browsing ease, finding info adequately, customization, decision-making support, advice provided, chatbot aides, customer or expert review availability and online support.

“The omnichannel experience has become a do-or-die in the retail industry,” according to Christian Bourque, executive VP and senior partner at Leger, adding that “2020 was the year of the cardboard box,” referring to the uptick in home delivery during lockdowns.

Simons scored well across all channels, “way above anyone else in the [department store] sector,” according to Bourque. For example, the Quebec-based retailer outpaced department store competitor The Hudson’s Bay Company, which landed at #81 for its online customer experience.

Sephora, best known for in-store customer engagement and brand experiences, also landed high on the list for successfully translating its “retail-tainment” approach online, adds Bourque.

Grocery saw a big boost to ecommerce in 2020. Prior to the pandemic, 2% of food was bought online. Bourque says that figure was 20% during the peak of the pandemic. At #58 overall, Costco topped the grocers when it came to online experience, beating out Maxi (#62 overall) and Metro (#71).

At #6 (down from #4) is Quebec’s SAQ, strategy’s 2019 Retail Innovator of the Year. The brand continues to draw top marks thanks to its loyalty program, which offers product customization.

The unique visual style and gamification of its shopping process helped Quebecor discount telco brand land at #7 on the list, Bourque says. The retailer has no physical presence and rewards points to consumers for doing things like staying with Fizz and participating in its Community Hub.

Nespresso (at #10 in 2020, down from #2 in 2019) is a perennial top performer, according to Bourque, who says the company’s success online is a result of having a consistent brand image across platforms.

Top 12 retailers with the best online CX:

  1. Simons
  2. Lush
  3. Apple
  4. Sephora
  5. Cook It
  6. SAQ
  7. Fizz
  9. Lufa Farms
  10. Nespresso / Yves Rocher