Prices are rising, promotions are exciting, some shelves are still empty. But perhaps the grocers are on top of it and it has been taken care of.
This is a worrying but intelligent takeaway from the new annual American Customer Satisfaction Index, which ranks grocery stores based on how much customers say they are satisfied with their recent shopping experience. You would think that buyers would be dissatisfied with things like high prices, low publicity and frequent out of stock. But on a scale of 1 to 100, grocery stores are rated 76 overall, just like last year.
“While consumers may be frustrated by more frequent product delays and limited inventory, they have at the same time adjusted to their expectations,” said ACSI managing director David Vanamburg in a statement. “This patience is good for retailers.”
ACSI’s ranking is based on customer satisfaction with certain store features such as speed, quality, convenience and cleanliness. With the exception of slightly higher ratings for the quality and reliability of their store’s mobile app this year, shoppers’ opinions about how their favorite grocery store was doing were largely unchanged. With a score of 82, since last year’s 79, the store’s mobile apps have achieved the highest rates of satisfaction across all categories, while “product availability” and “sales and promotion frequencies” were close to 76, which remained unchanged last year.
Only a few individual grocery chains have shown significant improvement over the past year, most of which have either increased or decreased slightly, or remained exactly where they were. Here are the latest ACSI results, as shoppers ranked their grocery stores from best to worst:
1. Trader Joe’s (85)
One point up from last year, but still one point away from the top ranking a few years ago, Trader Joe’s is at number one for the fourth year in a row. With a limited assortment of store-brand products, the trader is less affected by Joe’s supply chain problems, which has a greater impact on larger competitors. Earlier this year, however, many traders had some shortages in the production department at Joe’s stores, which retailers blamed bad weather. But TJ fans were eager to give them a pass. “You know it’s bad when even Trader Joe’s isn’t safe,” blog NYU Local wrote last month.
2. HEB (82)
HEB is unchanged from last year, but unlike last year’s four-way tie, the Texas-based chain now ranks second by itself. “HEB is a purpose-driven company with deep Texas roots (and) an unwavering commitment to customer service and the community,” the retailer describes himself. And satisfied HEB buyers seem to agree.
3. ALDI / Costco / Wegmans (tie, 81)
Costco and Wegmans slipped one place, while ALDI rose one, so all three are now ranked third in this year’s survey. But that’s all there is to that trilogy. ALDI has become a favorite among those looking for a low-cost, low-frills shopping experience, while Costco has proven to be a great place for an epidemic to store all the essentials. And Wegmans? This is a fan favorite among those looking for a more traditional grocery shopping experience. But Wagmans was number one in the 2016 ACSI survey. So being tied to a warehouse store and an empty-bone grocer can only be seen as a slight reduction for a former champ.
6. PUBLICS (80)
Speaking of Comedown, Publicx has been number one in the ACSI survey for 19 consecutive years. But it was before Wegman, trader Joe and HEB were even part of the survey. Since then, in 2018, Publix has once again regained the top spot. But with even more favorite grocery chains now included in the survey, the competition is now much tougher than Publix’s ACSI Glory Day.
7. Sam’s Club (79)
For those who like to buy bulk, Sam’s Club may not be as popular as Costco. But it does have the backing of Walmart, a retail giant with enough leverage to work with suppliers to keep shelves. But while Sam’s focus may be on Costco at number three, there could be a bigger challenge behind it.
8. BJ’s Wholesale Club (78)
BJ’s aren’t nearly as big as Costco’s or BJ’s. But perhaps not the “big” answer. Just a few weeks ago, BJ’s announced the opening of a test store called BJ’s Market, where retailers will try out new product stores, exhibitions and new checkout methods, “focusing on getting people out of the building quickly.” Go, ”explains CEO Bob Eddy. If it works, BJ may find itself more in the future rankings.
9. Hi-V / Kroger / Target (77)
Hi-Veer has big plans to go from a regional to a national retailer, as the Midwestern chain, with stores in eight states, is in the process of expanding to four more. Kroger has big plans to expand to new markets like Florida and Texas, where it has no stores. And Target has big plans to become a legitimate grocery destination instead of a department store that sells some food. How is that working for them? Enough to keep them just above average in this year’s ACSI survey. So it could be worse.
12. Ahold Delhais / Giant Eagle / Meyer / Shopright / Whole Foods Market / “All Other” (Tie, 76)
Five grocery chains find themselves square in the middle of the pack, with an average rating and tied to “all other” grocery stores that were too small to be included in the survey by name. For the most part, this can be frustrating. But the Pennsylvania-based giant Eagle has been below or close to the ACSI survey every year since it joined the ACSI in 2015. So for the Giant Eagle, the “average” is a huge improvement.
18. Southeast Grocers (75)
The owners of Winn-Dixie and Harvey’s are expanding their presence in their home state of Florida and expanding their presence elsewhere throughout the South. To date, the retailer has refreshed about 70% of its stores, and plans to recreate more than 50 others this year. Perhaps the improvement in its store will result in an improvement in its ACSI ranking in the future.
19. Save Lots (74)
Save A Lot is also launching an ambitious refresh, with plans to redesign all of its nearly 900 stores in 32 states by 2024. Its ranking in future ACSI surveys may show whether buyers are appreciating the effort.
20. Albertsons (71)
The good news for Albertson is that it’s not the last dead, a position where it found itself tied up last year. But that’s not because Albertson has improved, because its rating is the same as last year’s 71. Because Alberton’s fellow Cellar-residents slipped even further this year than last year.
21. Walmart (70)
And the seller will be Walmart, which stands alone at the bottom of the ACSI rankings this year, in the same position it has held or shared in a row for the last seventeen years. At this time last year, Walmart announced a new initiative to rebuild stores and make the shopping experience “new and exciting.” Its ACSI rankings show that it may have some more work to do.
“Cold stability. That’s the best way to describe the retail sector right now,” said VanAmburg of ACSI.
Photo source: Unsplash Hanson Lou