business news in context, analysis with attitude

Consumer Reports is out with its annual supermarket ratings, concluding that the nation’s best stores are, in order: Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, Publix, Fareway, Costco, Harris Teeter, Market Basket, Raley’s, Hy-Vee and Stater Bros.

The ratings are based on a survey of more than 24,000 shoppers nationwide.

The story in the May Consumer Reports also ranks various chains in specific categories. For example, when it comes to parking, , Aldi, Food Lion and Ingles are rated at the top, while Trader Joe’s is rated as worst. In store layout, Fareway gets top marks, while Giant Eagle and Walmart get failing grades. Fresh produce is best at Raley’s, Wegmans, and Whole Foods, and worst at Walmart. Baked goods are best at Costco, Harris Teeter, Stater Bros., Trader Joe’s, Wegmans and Winco, and worst at Pathmark and Walmart. “Specials in stock” are rated highly at Whole Foods and Winco, worst at Pic ‘n Save. Open checkouts are tops at Trader Joe’s and worst at Walmart. Checkout speed is fastest at Fareway, Harris Teeter, Hy-Vee, IGA, Publix, Raley’s, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans, slowest at Pathmark and Walmart. And finally, scanning accuracy is greatest at Costco and Trader Joe’s and worst at Pathmark. (The folks at Walmart and Pathmark cannot be pleased by the survey results.)

Nobody, however, should be feeling sanguine about the survey results. As Consumer Reports writes, “One-third of subscribers we surveyed in our 2011 Annual Questionnaire said they had given the heave-ho to a nearby grocery store. Forty-three percent fired a grocer in search of lower prices; about 25 percent cited poor selection, long lines, or lousy food; 17 percent blamed employee rudeness; 14 percent, the crowds ... Of the 24,203 readers who told us about 42,695 supermarket experiences, more than half had at least one complaint about their current store; almost a third cited two or more. Even high-rated chains such as Raley’s (in the West) and Wegmans (mid-Atlantic) gave plenty of readers something to criticize.”
KC's View:
Last week I took issue with the Consumer Reports bagel evaluations, and this week I’m afraid that I have to suggest that at the very least, these ratings do not represent the best of US supermarket retailing. Some of the chains mentioned are, indeed, something special ... but while some of them would never make my list, there are enormous gaps in the list.

Where is Dorothy Lane Markets? Or Lunds/Byerly’s? Or Metropolitan Markets? Or any of HEB’s formats, especially Central Markets? Or Schnucks?

“Best” and “worst” may not be the best descriptive words for Consumer Reports to use here - in part because my “best” may be completely different from someone else’s ... it all depends on what our priorities and life-stages are. It may even depend on the day of the week and the time of day.