Meet America's 5 Most Reputable Retailers

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We don't trust corporate America by default, but there are certainly more than a few retailers that earn our respect. Whether it's a warehouse club that offers rock-bottom pricing or an e-tailer that has nailed down the tricky fulfillment challenges, there are a few merchants that consumers generally see as pretty reputable.

Earlier this month, the Reputation Institute put out its annual survey of the most reputable companies in the U.S., derived after interviewing more than 50,000 consumers to determine the companies that have the most trustworthy brands. There are a few surprises once you get past the top-dog retailer, so let's dive right in.

1. (AMZN)

It's not a surprise to see Amazon on top. This is the third year in a row that the country's largest online retailer tops Reputation Institute's list. It also nearly took top honors in a similar survey conducted by the pollsters at Harris Interactive earlier this year. Wegmans took the top prize in that survey, though the privately held grocer didn't make the cut in Reputation Institute's list.

Amazon has managed to establish its solid reputation despite doing business out of faceless distribution centers, unlike the local merchants with brick-and-mortar locations where shoppers can engage in actual conversations.

That's a pretty big feat, and Amazon has made it happen as a result of its reliable shipping and sticky Amazon Prime loyalty program that keeps its customers close.

2. Publix

Wegmans didn't make this list, but another regional grocer with a cult following -- Florida's Publix -- is Reputation Institute's silver medalist. It's a pretty big honor for the chain that topped $30 billion in sales last year through its network of more than 1,100 supermarkets across the Southeast.

Since Publix is second only to Amazon on the list, it also makes it the most reputable retailer in this country with a physical store presence. Publix has been at it for 85 years, combining modest prices with fresh merchandise. There's also quite the fan base for the grocer's deli-made submarine sandwiches.

3. Whole Foods Market (WFM)

Another supermarket on the list is Whole Foods Market. There are just 417 locations, but management has a goal of eventually having 1,200 grocery stores that specialize in organic foods and natural merchandise.

Whole Foods recently announced that it will roll out a sister concept called 365 next year, aiming to provide cheaper organics to millennials who don't flock to Whole Foods the way that older shoppers do.

4. Tiffany (TIF)

A big surprise on the list of reputable companies is an upscale jeweler. Then again, Tiffany has always set itself apart from other jewelry merchants with its premium shopping experience and its signature light blue boxes tied with satin ribbons. Tradition works: Tiffany scored $4.2 billion in sales last year.

5. Costco Wholesale (COST)

You would think that slapping a cover charge -- and in Costco's case we're talking about annual membership fees -- for access would turn consumers off, but that's just one of the many ways that the leading warehouse club can offer great prices on everyday merchandise.

Costco is also able to keep costs down with its bare-bones store design, complete with exposed beams and a penchant for bulk packaging. It all boils down to low prices, and that includes the famous rotisserie roasted whole chicken that it continues to sell for just $4.99.

It's probably not a surprise that three of the five most reputable retailers specialize in groceries, given the industry's meager markups and quick turnover of merchandise. However, we also can't dismiss and Tiffany. Let's see if Amazon can stretch its streak on top to four years in a row next year.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of, Costco Wholesale and Whole Foods Market. John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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