September 1, 2005

Independents vs. Big Boxes

Consumer Reports' September 2005 issue ($ubscriber-only) reports on a 6000 person non-representative reader survey asking about price, quality, and service at independent stores and big boxes when shopping for small and large appliances.

The results are not flattering to Wal-Mart -- or any other chain besides Sears:

Sears was the only major retailer that matched the independents for product selection, service, and checkout for small appliances, and served readers nearly as well when buying large appliances....

Costco is the only store that excelled in price without compromising quality, which helps explain its high reader score. But that appeal was offset by subpar service and checkout, and less product selection....

Wal-Mart: not a winner on price. Wal-Mart's tag line is "Always low prices. Always." But compared with other small-appliance buyers, more than twice as many who bought at Wal-Mart said they overpaid. While Wal-Mart sells no large appliances, readers who shopped there ranked small appliances lower in quality than readers who bought elsewhere....

Best Buy and Target: service suffers. Compared with the average for other stores, twice as many large-appliance buyers couldn't find help at Best Buy. Target's small-appliance prices were lower than average, but readers said they got below-average quality. Crowded aisles were another complaint.

Wal-Mart came in dead last, recieving the worst score for Price (3), and Selection, Service, Checkout Ease, and Product Quality (1). But WM can take these data in stride; the readers of Consumer Reports are truly unrepresentative of the US public. And elsewhere CR has noted that Wal-Mart's in-house lines equal or better the quality of name brands for diverse goods from peanut putter to ladies jeans, and from oatmeal to plastic bags.

(The results of the reader survey are summarized here).

Posted by Kevin on September, 1 2005 at 12:54 PM