American consumers don’t just like buying in bulk—they like the shopping experience at one bulk-buying warehouse store a lot more compared to other retailers. Based on the results of a new survey, Costco has been named the retailer scoring the highest overall ratings with shoppers.
In Consumer Reports’ latest survey, some 26,000 consumers were asked to evaluate their shopping experiences at 10 major retailers: Costco, JC Penney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target, and Walmart.
Shoppers were asked to rate the shopping experience in different categories (clothing, personal care, hardware, sporting goods, etc.), and in all 10 sections, Costco received above average scores. Sam’s Club, the other membership warehouse club included in the study, got average or slightly above average grades in all categories, while Walmart—which owns Sam’s Club—was rated the worst of the bunch.
The other ‘mart (Kmart) also fared poorly in the study. CR writes:
Walmart and Kmart stores scored much lower than those of other retailers. Walmart might be associated with low prices, but respondents said the product value was better at Costco and Kohl’s. Kmart was the only chain to score below average for value. Kmart also received low marks for selection, service, and checkout speed.
Consumers also said that Walmart and Kmart were the worst when it came to returns. At Walmart, 23% of shoppers said they reported encountering at least one problem in the prior year when trying to return an item; 18% of Kmart shoppers said they’d had at least one problem when it came to a return. Just 8% of readers said they’d run into a problem making a return at Costco or JC Penney, meanwhile.
Before running into a Costco to become a member, though, realize that the CR survey isn’t the end-all and be-all of evaluations. In the same way that there’s more than one way to declare a car, or car brand, as a “best value,” there are multiple studies that attempt to nail down which retailers shoppers love the most.
Unsurprisingly, different surveys and studies often yield conflicting results. In two previous studies—one an independent price comparison between Costco and Sam’s Club, the other a survey of online customer satisfaction among various retailers—Sam’s Club and Costco received very similar marks, with no clear-cut winner.
No survey is entirely comprehensive, either. The CR study only includes 10 retailers, and BJ’s Club, the third major warehouse membership store, isn’t in the mix. In a customer service report published last summer, though, BJ’s made the cut—and consumers gave it scores that were nearly identical to that of Costco and Sam’s Club.