Monday, December 22, 2014

What's Consumer Reports' top supermarket?

The meat counter at the Cherry Hill Wegmans. (File Photo: Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)<br />
The meat counter at the Cherry Hill Wegmans. (File Photo: Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

What's the best supermarket chain?

Consumer Reports surveyed 27,208 readers who rated 55 major supermarket chains for the May 2014 issue. They rated them on a scale of 1 to 100 for service, cleanliness, perishables and prices. 

At the top: Wegman's with a score of 88. The Rochester-based chain just inched out the next favorite, Trader Joe's, which scored 87. Others getting solid scores were Whole Foods, Costco, and Publix. 

Acme, A&P and Pathmark all received low scores, comparatively.

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    Walmart, the nation's largest grocer with 3,300 supercenters, came in last with a score of 67.  Despite its size, it earned subpar scores on checkout speed and employee courtesy, as well as for meat and produce quality, the magazine found.

    Though many respondents were drawn to Walmart's prices, the survey found many chains had similar prices. They included Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Wegman's, among other chains outside the Northeast, including Sprouts Farmers Market, with 160 stores in eight Western states showcasing fresh and whole-grain food.

    Consumer Reports says Americans average 88 trips per year to supermarkets, spending about $6,000, according to the Food Marketing Institute, a trade group.

    Fifty-six percent of respondents reported at least one problem. And 31 percent reported two or more. Walmart received the worst marks. Eight in 10 shoppers had at least one gripe, mostly that there weren’t enough open checkout lanes, that aisles were congested, or that basic items were out of stock.

    The magazine, quoting Jim Hertel, a partner with Willard Bishop, retail consultants in Barrington, Ill., said people continue to seek bargains. "The Great Recession also spurred consumer trial of many extreme-value formats, like Aldi's limited-assortment stores," he said. "Many shoppers found them more than acceptable. Taken together, consumers are still nervous, and they have more alternatives."

    Another trend: Shoppers have been turning to pharmacies, convenience stores, and dollar stores, which have added refrigerated and fresh items and broadened their assortment of packaged goods.

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