We’re always honoring retailers in this business. We hold contests, give awards, measure sales success and reward growth.
What we don’t do often enough is ask the shopper. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports did exactly that, surveying its subscribers about more than 55,000 shopping experiences at Costco, Penney’s, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target and Walmart. Which experiences pleased them most? Displeased them? Disappointed them?
And the results were predictable. The Walmart behemoth, with its great combination of broad merchandise selection and great prices, hammered the competition.
In fact, Walmart came in dead last among the 10 retail options. (Well, actually tied for last with Kmart, which is actually sort of worse.) “Walmart might be associated with low prices,” said Consumer Reports, “but respondents said the product value was better at Costco and Kohl’s.”
Costco was Number One, an overall 84 out of 100 on six factors: quality, selection, value, checkout, service and layout. Costco earned the highest customer ratings for quality, but also good for value and layout. (Complaints: long check-out lines and lack of fitting rooms.) Kohl’s was second, JCPenney third, then Target and Macy’s.
“Target boasts that its stores are easy to navigate, and our readers rated its layouts higher than some other chains,” said Consumer Reports. “Otherwise, the in-store shopping experience was just average.”
I won’t say store design (the “layout” in the survey) was the biggest single factor in any retailer’s score, positively or otherwise. But it was certainly a factor. Clutter, navigation, ease of finding things and ease of checking out were all on shoppers’ radars. Consumer Reports quoted the observations of a research report that “Walmart stores have actually become more cluttered since a clean-aisle initiative was started in 2009. Its goal: to pare inventory and make shopping ‘fast, clean and friendly.’ ”
There was also the complaint registered that at Walmart and Kmart, “customers reported hidden or missing price tags, more than at other retailers in our ratings.”
By the way, the survey also rated the online experiences of each of the 10 retailers, and along some of the same considerations: price, selection, ease of navigation. Again, Costco’s score was highest, Walmart’s lowest (tied again, this time with Sears). Respondents loved the fact that Costco has roughly the same number of products available online as in its stores, fewer food items but more “bulky items that would be tough to squeeze into the trunk of a car” – home saunas, boats, motorcycles and “nine different funeral coffins.”
Plus, said Consumer Reports, “checking out at Costco stores was a pain, online shoppers found it a virtual breeze.”
Just another thing for store designers to keep in mind after they’ve completed the high-concept, state-of-the-art design that they know will “guarantee” shoppers step away from their digital devices and come into the store.