The Science of Retail Supermarkets – Trends and Consumer Opinion
Consumer Reports recently came out with a survey of the highest rated retail supermarket chains in the country. With over 24,000 respondents, they rated 52 leading chains by service, perishables (quality of meat and produce), price and cleanliness. This is how the top 10 fared:
1. Wegmans: score 88 (in MA, MD, NY, NJ, PA, VA)
2. Trader Joe’s: score 86 (31 states and D.C., most stores located in CA)
3. Publix: score 85 (FL, TN, AL, GA, SC)
4. Fareway Stores: score 84 (IA, NE, IL, MN)
5. Costco: score 83 (40 states, 9 countries)
6. Harris Teeter: score 83 (Washington, DC, DE, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, TN, VA)
7. Market Basket: score 82 (MA, NH)
8. Raleys : score 82 (CA, NV)
9. Hy-Vee: score 82 (IL, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, SD, WI)
10. Stater Brothers: score 81 (CA)
Though Wegman’s, headquartered in Rochester, NY, came in for some criticism for high prices, it beat the other chains in service and cleanliness and got high marks for selection, offering more than 70,000 products from around the world.
Trader Joe’s, Publix, and Fareway Stores were also tops in service and cleanliness. Publix fared well when it came to other store attributes, scoring highest among the pack for inviting atmosphere, courteous staff, quality produce and cleanliness.
Whole Foods and Jewel-Osco got the worst price ratings of any in the survey and Pathmark (Northeast), Wal-Mart Supercenter and Pick ‘N Save (Wisconsin) were at the bottom overall for poor quality perishables and service.
In response to a down economy, many chains have ramped up their loyalty programs and 86% of loyalty club members said they were satisfied with discounts they received from programs.
Another way consumers save is by buying store brands over nationally known brands. 98% of the survey respondents said store brands were of the same or better quality than nationally advertised brands. Trader Joe’s store brands scored highest in this area, according to ConsumerBase, which analyzes consumer opinion. Most of what Trader Joe’s carries is its own brands, and that’s a big draw for its loyal shoppers. Trader Joe’s has a specific niche, knows its target shopper, and has tailored its store brand strategy, price and selection to that audience. ConsumerBase noted that Wegman’s also got top marks for its private label brands.
Another study, by Market Force, indicated that location and price were the big factors in determining where consumers shop, followed by cleanliness and service, and as far as food quality, produce was more important to shoppers than high-quality meat. The Market Force survey also found that the deli, bakery and butcher area were the most important departments to consumers, followed by flower/gifts, pharmacy and movie rentals. As far as overall customer satisfaction, it was noted that 88% of shoppers said they were either somewhat or very satisfied with their grocery shopping experiences.
So what can be determined from all these surveys and studies?
Price, service, cleanliness and location are determining factors in a shopper’s decision. A supermarket should offer high-quality store brands that are priced below nationally advertised brands, but should also maintain a wide selection of both, being careful not to run out of common products, which annoys shoppers and forces them to go elsewhere for basic purchases. And, since a supermarket can’t please everyone, stores need to structure their business around their target market.