We all love Costco, and apparently, so do the 26,000 respondents in a Consumer Reports survey on major retail chains that was conducted last spring. Costco often ranks at the top of this survey, not surprisingly to all of my readers I’m sure, and it repeated that result again this year. Interestingly, this was the first year that Consumer Reports asked about the online presence and shopping experience for these retailers too. And, Costco.com got very good marks too.
There were ten retailers included in the survey: Costco, JCPenney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target, and Walmart. As I mentioned there were 26,000 respondents that had a total of 55,108 shopping experiences – in person or online – that were covered as part of the survey. So, that’s a fairly good sized group with at least two shopping experiences each it seems (technically 2.1 but I’m rounding) which seems reasonable. Readers were asked about the store products, as well as things like store layout, customer service and selection. They were asked the same types of questions about the retailer’s online shopping sites as well.
The most interesting result, I think, has to do with how people rated the websites and online shopping experiences for all retailers. In general, the survey respondents said that it was easier to shop online and that the quality, selection and value was just as good, if not better, than the in-store shopping experiences. All of the stores that have an online store (that people actually use) get better ratings for their websites than for their actual brick and motor stores. I can think of a few reasons for this, not the least of which is the size of these stores. When you go into a store the size of Costco or Target, it can be very difficult to find a single specific item. Sometimes you can’t even find it when you ask someone that works there (I usually find they are better about this at Costco than most other retailers, to be fair) because they’re not familiar with all areas of the store and there are just too many items. However, when you shop online you can pop the item you are looking for into the search box and find out in quick order if they have it and where it is located in the site too, with a handy link to take you right to it. So, there’s that. Of course, this knowledge that people prefer shopping online rather than in the stores, makes me really wonder why Costco hasn’t decided to roll out online stores for their other locations.
Consumer Reports asked respondents to also rate each retailer on their products in several categories: clothing for men, women, and children, watches and jewelry, personal care, hardware, home decor, kitchenware, electronics and entertainment, sporting goods and toys. As far as store products go, Costco outscored all retailers by receiving the highest score in the watches and jewelry category, electronics and entertainment category, as well as sporting goods and toys category. Aside from the clothing (for which I go into detail below), Costco also had a few categories where it was rated equal to at least one other retailer. Costco and Macy’s received the highest rating for personal care and kitchenware products, with all other retailers failing to match up. There were no product categories where other retailers scored higher than Costco.
This is another result that I find kind of amazing: Costco scores just as well on clothing for men, women, and children as do stores like JCPenney, Macy’s, and Kohl’s. This surprises me because I think of primarily shopping for clothing at all of those places except for Costco. Don’t get me wrong, I buy clothes at Costco and like them quite a bit but those are more in the impulse buy category since it is hard to tell what the selection will be week to week for all items. Of course, I say that but I do know that you can always buy very high quality men’s dress shirts at Costco and Dave’s closet is a perfect testament to that. I realized the other day that I think all of the socks that I have right now have come from Costco too. I will say Costco has become better about having some consistency in this area and I think a lot of that has to do with the introduction of more clothing items, for women and men, in the Kirkland Signature line, such as workout clothing for women (but not yet for men) and cashmere sweaters or jumpers for men and women.
One of the other areas that Consumer Reports gathered information about were complaints. Costco received a pretty low level of respondent complaints actually, not the lowest of any retailer but pretty low overall. The big complaints were for long lines when checking out and the lack of fitting rooms. Honestly, I’ve never felt like Costco should have fitting rooms, but that is probably because I don’t think of the them as a clothing store. However, 7% of respondents complained about Costco not having fitting rooms. With regards to the long lines, I think that is just an unfortunate outcome of having so many people that want to all shop at the same time, like weekend mornings. There were complaints about returns at Costco, JCPenney, and Macy’s, but they all scored the lowest with just 8 – 9% of respondents listing problems at these stores. The returns complaints sky rocket up to 23% at Walmart! How horrendous is that?
Overall, Costco scores the best for their physical stores as well as its online store with an 84 and 88 respectively (out of 100). The retailer that scored closest to Costco at number two was Kohl’s with scores of 81 and 84. Sam’s Club, Costco’s only real direct competition in this list of retailers, falls far short of Costco with a ranking of eight, with scores of 77 for stores and 79 for its online website. And naturally, bringing up the rear of the retailer survey is Walmart with scores of 71 for stores and 77 for its online store.
So, what are your thoughts on the survey results? Do you agree with the results?
For more information, you can read the two articles below. Unfortunately, to get all the details from Consumer Reports you have to be a subscriber.