Costco Comes Out On Top: Consumer Reports Survey

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Costco Comes Out On Top: Consumer Reports Survey

Over 30,000 shoppers found Costco to be the best of 11 of America’s most popular chain stores, a survey by Consumer Reports has found.

Fifty percent of readers who shopped at Costco rated its value as excellent; for all of the stores in Consumer Reports survey as a whole, that figure was 30 percent. Walmart and Kmart, meanwhile, scored notably lower than the other chains. As well as citing the Costco’s great prices, survey respondents identified the Issaquah, Wash.-based warehouse club chain store as the only retailer that was much better than average for value.

“In our surveys over the years, Costco has earned high marks as a source of a surprisingly large selection of goods, including mattresses, electronics, small appliances, groceries, and books,” said Tod Marks Sr., project editor at Yonkers, N.Y.-based Consumer Reports. “In recent years, the chain’s Kirkland Signature products have often performed well in our tests.”

Overall, Consumer Reports readers were often underwhelmed by the quality of merchandise at many stores, with only Dillard’s and Costco earning better than-average all-around scores. In general, the highest marks went to electronic entertainment products and personal care items, and the lowest to men’s and women’s apparel, and home decor items.

Walmart was the only chain to garner below-average quality scores in over half of the product categories. Only about 10 percent of Walmart shoppers thought the retailer’s children’s clothing was excellent, for instance. By contrast, 46 percent of Dillard’s shoppers believed the kids’ apparel to be top-notch.

Walmart may brag about its low prices, but shoppers said the prices at 10 other retailers, among them JCPenney, Sears, Dillard’s and Meijer, were at least as good. Additionally, bigger wasn’t always better when it came to the overall shopping experience. Nearly three-quarters of respondents who shopped at Walmart found at least one problem to carp about, and half had two or more complaints about the store or its staff.

Additional findings included:

As well as a lack of sales help, the most common problems uncovered in the survey were that desired items were out of stock and that checkouts were jammed. Twenty-nine percent of respondents complained about long lines, citing conditions at Kmart, Walmart and Meijer as worse than average. When asked about checkout gridlock, missing merchandise, spotty sales help and cluttered stores, 58 percent of shoppers reported at least one problem, while one-third had two or more. Walmart, Meijer, and Kmart shoppers encountered the most problems; Dillard’s and Sears shoppers reported the fewest. Specifically:

—Lines were worst at Walmart (mentioned by 46 percent of readers who had shopped there), but they were almost as bad at Costco, Sam’s Club and Meijer.

—Relatively few shoppers sought help, but 24 percent of those who spoke with a clerk said they had a tough time locating one, and 15 percent of those who spoke with a clerk said that the employee was poorly informed. Walmart and Kmart had the least knowledgeable staffers, respondents said.

—Respondents who shopped at Meijer complained the most about out of-stock merchandise: 25 percent said the chain didn’t have an item they wanted. Walmart, Kmart and Target also had difficulty keeping regular merchandise in stock, while Meijer and Kmart were often short of sale items.

—Thirteen percent of respondents noted cluttered displays or narrow aisles, but a disproportionate percentage of Walmart and Kohl’s shoppers said that those problems impeded movement. Walmart, which operates many sprawling supercenters, was also fingered as having stores that were too big to navigate easily.

—At most chains, price tags were perfectly visible, but about 12 percent of respondents complained about missing or hard-to-find tags at Kmart, Walmart and Meijer.

—Few respondents had problems returning or exchanging merchandise. The biggest difference among stores was how long the process took. Walmart shoppers were especially annoyed at the length of the procedure, with 20 percent saying that the return of items took longer than they expected.

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