Consumers may be thinking Whole Foods but they are holding their noses, tightening their purse strings and cruising the aisles at Walmarts around the country, MSNBC’s Alison Linn tells us in a story following up on a Consumer Reports survey released this week that ranks consumers’ favorite supermarket chains.
Most people apparently value price and convenience more than anything else when they decide where to buy their food and household supplies, according to a poll conducted by Life, Inc., cited by Linn, and “that may be why Wal-Mart is the nation’s No. 1 grocer, even though it ranks among the least-beloved store chains.”
“People who like Wal-Mart shop there,” supermarket consultant David J. Livingston says, “and people who don’t like Wal-Mart shop there more.”
The No. 1 retail grocer in the U.S. is actually a smallish 79-store chain based in upstate New York — Wegmans — according to Consumer Reports’ May issue. It is followed by Trader Joe’s, Publix, Fareway Stores and Costco. The stores with the worst ratings, in order of distaste, are Pathmark, Wal-Mart Supercenter, Shaw’s, A&P and Jewel-Osco. Not too many surprises, actually.
“This is the third straight survey in which the same three grocers have been at the top and the same three near the bottom,” reports Consumer Reports. Wegmans has long been the pride of upstate New York.
“When I moved away to California, I was shocked how far behind the other grocery stores were,” Sheri Petkus tells Patrice Walsh of Rochester, N.Y.’s 13WHAM. “I just felt like I was shocked I didn’t have Wegmans anymore.” And Ginger Foreman says it’s “all about convenience and the fact that Wegmans has been “in the family for years. I have shopped here, my mother shopped here, my grandchildren.”
That loyalty is unusual. A third of the 24,200 readers surveyed “fired” their supermarket in the past year, according to the story. “More than half say they have at least one complaint about their current store, and almost a third have two or more,” writes ABC News’ Alan Farnham.
The biggest complaints, CR project editor Tod Marks tells Farnham, “include markets setting their prices too high (cited by 43% of shoppers as their reason for firing a store), not having enough checkouts open (cited by 27%), having rude employees (17%), or not having advertised specials in stock.”
“Other irritants included inept bagging, missing prices, and scanner overcharges,” CR writes in a blurb for the article, which is only available to subscribers to its website (on in the public library).
Stater Brothers, which operates 167 stores in Southern California, issued a release on PR Newswire to let us know it is as proud as stevia-laced punch (yes, of course, such a product exists) at the news that it is ranked No. 10 nationwide as the best place to shop for groceries and is the “highest rated Full Service Supermarket Chain in Southern California.”
“I am so proud of the over 18,000 members of the Stater Bros. ‘Family’ of Employees for bringing this high honor to Stater Bros. Supermarkets,” says chairman and CEO Jack H. Brown. “We will all work very hard every day to continue to earn the privilege of serving you, your family, friends and neighbors.”
But the release skirts the issue of exactly who said so in seeming accordance with Consumer Report’s “strict ‘No Commercial Use Policy’ preventing the use of our name and information for any promotional or advertising purposes.” The release instead cites a “Leading National Consumer Magazine” as the source of the kudos.
Meanwhile, a French study of of 7,131 people who shopped in more than 1,000 supermarkets finds that people who shop at discount stores are fatter and heavier than their city-slicker cousins who do their grazing in upscale stores that feature more costly healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and fish, as well as organic products.
The study, published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, says that “discount shopping” is “associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) even after adjusting for social background and distance from the store,” according to the Irish Times. “However, the link was stronger among shoppers with a poorer education.”
The study also finds that only 11.4% of participants shop primarily in their own neighborhood.
Whatever the research says, “The More You Pay, the Less You Weigh” is not likely to become anyone’s marketing slogan anytime soon.