Across multiple retail categories, customer satisfaction rebounds to higher levels over the prior year, based on surveys by the American Customer Satisfaction Index during the 2016 holiday season. Amid the challenging retail landscape of store closings, those that remain seem to be striking the right chord with customers.
People who do shop in-store may encounter shorter lines and more personal service as evidenced by gains in shopper perceptions of staff courtesy, store cleanliness and layout, and checkout speed, according to the ACSI report, which is based on 12,515 customer surveys collected in the fourth quarter of 2016.
“As traditional outlets such as Sears, Macy’s and JCPenney shed properties, shoppers may experience better service in the stores that remain,” says David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI. “Although this is obviously not ideal or sustainable in the long run, fewer customers mean shorter lines, faster checkout and more attention from sales staff.”
Indeed, retailers are reversing course after two years of declining customer satisfaction. Department and discount stores gain 5.4% to 78. Dillard’s takes first place, up 4% to an ACSI score of 83. In second place, JCPenney is the biggest gainer, up 11% to 82, according to ACSI.
“The retail landscape has shifted toward e-commerce, but there are opportunities for department stores to capitalize on this,” says Claes Fornell, founder and chairman of ACSI. “Stores will remain relevant to the extent that they can integrate online shopping with brick-and-mortar operations, combining the convenience of online shopping with the benefit of personal service.”
Nordstrom is the only department store to deteriorate in customer satisfaction, slipping 2% into a three-way tie with Dollar Tree and Belk at 80. Kohl’s, Macy’s and Target all advance to 79, and Dollar General rises to 78. Meijer matches Sears at 77, followed by Ross at 76.
Customer satisfaction with Walmart surges 9% as the company’s renewed attention to customer service via “holiday helpers” to expedite checkout lines and aid shoppers pays off. Despite the ACSI gain, however, Walmart continues to anchor the low end of the industry with an ACSI score of 72.
Specialty retailers lift shopper satisfaction 3.9% to 80. Costco (+2%) leads with an ACSI score of 83, followed by a trio at 81: Sam’s Club (+7%), L Brands (unchanged), and Barnes & Noble (+3%).
With a big jump, Home Depot (+10% to 80) edges ahead of rival Lowe’s (+7% to 79) for the first time, as well as Menards (+1% to 79). AutoZone and Staples (each up 7%) cluster at 80, alongside TJX and GameStop (+3% each). Several other retailers are just below the industry average at 79: Advance Auto Parts (+10%), Bed Bath and Beyond (+5%), BJ’s Wholesale Club (+4%), Burlington (+4%), ACSI newcomer DICK’S Sporting Goods, Gap (+5%) and Office Depot.
Ascena, which recently acquired Ann Taylor, makes its debut at 78 and ties with two pet supply stores: Petco and PetSmart. Best Buy, Big Lots and Toys “R” Us follow at 77. Abercrombie & Fitch improves the most, up 17%, but remains last at 76.
Customer satisfaction with drug stores rises 6.8% to 78. Kmart pharmacy leads at 84, in part because many customers that were less than satisfied have left. Albertsons Companies, which includes Safeway, comes in second place at 83. The merged company hits its stride in 2016 with a 20% gain. Kroger is stable at 81 while Target is the only pharmacy to fall, down 1% to just above the average at 79. Rite Aid improves 13% to 78, while CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart round out the low end at 76.
Supermarkets improve customer satisfaction by 6.8% to 78, aided by falling food prices, higher quality and better service. Trader Joe’s rises to the top (+4% to 86). Publix is up 2% to 84, followed by ALDI, H-E-B, and Wegmans at 83.
Whole Foods climbs 11% to 81, ahead of Hy-Vee, Kroger, and ShopRite (all 79). Meijer (+5%) matches Target (+10%) at 78, followed by Southeastern Grocers (+4% to 77). The newly merged Ahold Delhaize posts an ACSI score of 76 to tie with SUPERVALU. Albertsons follows at 75, well below its score in the drug store category. Walmart and Giant Eagle are each up 10% but remain in a tie for last place at 74.
Internet retail leads the sector with an ACSI score of 83, up 3.8% from a year ago. Amazon continues to hold first place, advancing 4% to 86 amid a strong holiday season. Tech-focused Newegg gains 5% to 83 and eBay is up 8% to 81. Netflix climbs 4% to 79, alongside Overstock (+8%).