Food is a major item in most peoples’ budgets; the average family spends about $5,000 per year. This Report surveyed 32,599 readers for shopping stores offering low prices, praiseworthy meats and produce, and service.
Shoppers rated stores for overall satisfaction, including things beyond those listed in the table. A score of 100 would mean that all respondents were “completely satisfied,” 80 would be “very satisfied” and 60 would mean “fairly well satisfied.”
Rating tops on overall scores proved difficult because the best in one area, like price, lacked in service, but those that had better service often didn’t offer the best prices.
The “least expensive markets generally offered so-so perishables and service,” and that held true even for nationwide chains like “Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Target, Costco, and Sam’s Club.”
Costco and Sam’s club charge membership fees and “have minimal service, and carry a limited assortment of mostly bulk items.” Walmart rated especially low for service and perishables, with many complaints about too few available checkout lanes.
Since the 2005 study, grocers rated better for “service, checkout speed, and quality of store brands, baked goods, and produce.”
Consumers and retailers are facing tough times; consumers are looking for better prices and retailers are trying hard to please them.
Here are some trends that could help save money and make shopping easier.
1. Shop for store brands. Many shoppers (66%) shopped for name brands, and store brands sell for about 25% less, on average. Stores are expanding their product lines to include “prepared meals, cold cuts, baked goods, fancy sauces, and organic foods in addition to the usually canned fruit, frozen veggies, and paper towels.”
70% of respondents said they were highly satisfied with store brands.
2. Shop with bonus cards that give discounts for members’ only, offer 2-for-1 sales, may sometimes double the coupons’ value, and sometimes offer reward points for future purchases.
3. Use coupons for stuff you buy regularly; 2.6 billion coupons were redeemed in 2008. Shoppers can dependably save by using coupons found in newspapers and magazines, and also by downloading coupons from dedicated coupon sites like www.coolsavings.com, www.coupons.com, www.smartsource.com and www.shortcuts.com. Sometimes stores will double or even triple the face-value of a coupon.
4. Web-site specials. Some sites display current store flyers, print out coupons, and let you create customized shopping lists, like suggesting meals that cost $5 each. Some stores allow you to submit orders electronically. Some allow employees to shop your order for you and load it into your car when you drive up; plan to spend an extra $5 to $10, but it might be worth it to you. Or have them deliver the order for about twice that much.
5. Many stores are offering longer sales, some up to 3-months, to allow you to plan ahead and stock up.
6. Many supermarkets are offering low-cost generic-drug discounts.
CR rated 59 supermarkets. “Service” includes helpful staff and fast checkouts; “perishables” pertain to quality of meat and produce; and readers also judged “price” and “cleanliness.” All ratings are based on 48,831 visits to stores between April 2007 and April 2008 visits.
On a scale scoring “better” to “worse,” no store rated “better” on all 4 categories.
On a possible score of 100, the ratings ranged from a high of 87 to a low of 64, with Walmart Supercenter rating a 69 (rating better on price) and the lowest, Waldbaum’s rating 64, which didn’t score any good marks on the four measured categories.
Categories are rated on a 5-point scale on graphs from “better” (full red circle) [equivalent to number 5 here] to “worse” (full black circle) [= to number 1 here], with 4 [above average], 3 [average], and 2, ranging in-between to fairly represent the graphs.
1) Wegman’s scored 87, with “5” for service, perishables, and cleanliness, and “3” for price.
2) Trader Joe’s scored 86, with “5” for service and price; “4” for cleanliness; and “3” for perishables.
3) Publix scored 84, with “4” for service, perishables, and cleanliness; and “3” for price.
4) Raley’s scored 84, with “5” for service; “4” for perishables and cleanliness; and “3” for price.
5) Harris Teeter scored 82, with “4” for service, perishables, and cleanliness; and “2” for price.
6) Fareway scored 81, with “4” for service, perishables and price; “3” for cleanliness.
7) Costo scored 81, with “5” for price, “4” for perishables, and “3” for service and cleanliness.
8) Whole Foods Market scored 81, with “5” for perishables; “4” for service and cleanliness; and “1” for price.
9) Market Basket scored 81, with “5” for price; and “3” for service, perishables, and cleanliness.
10) WinCo Foods scored 80, with “5” for price; and “3” for service, perishables and cleanliness.
11) Stater Bros. scored 80, with “4” for price; and “3” for service, perishables, and cleanliness.
For those who are curious about the bottom-ranked, in case they are thinking of changing stores, are Pathmark, which scored 70; Food Lion, Giant, Winn-Dixie, Walmart Supercenter, and Shaw’s all scored 69; A & P scored 68; and Walbaum’s scored the lowest at 64.
“Differences of fewer than 6 points are not meaningful.”
“Findings reflect the experiences of our readers, not necessarily those of the general population.”