Last year shoppers spent $405 billion at Walmart, the world's largest retailer. But according to a new study by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, they might be better off if they switch stores.
For all the talk about Walmart's low prices, 30,666 subscribers we surveyed said the prices at 10 other retailers, including JCPenney, Sears, Dillard's, and Meijer, were at least as good. And bigger wasn't necessarily better when it came to the overall shopping experience. Almost three-quarters of respondents who shopped at Walmart found at least one problem to complain about, and half had two or more complaints about the store or its staff.
Walmart and Kmart scored notably lower than the other chains, but Costco stood tall. In addition to citing the warehouse club's rock-bottom prices, survey respondents praised its bang for the buck: It was the only store judged much better than average for value. In our surveys over the years, Costco has earned high marks as a source of a surprisingly large selection of goods, including mattresses, electronics, small appliances, groceries, and books. In recent years, the chain's Kirkland Signature products have often performed well in our tests.
"Costco surprises consumers with great products and brands at exceptional prices," says Will Ander, senior partner in McMillanDoolittle, a retail-consulting firm in Chicago. "They don't promise to have everything, but they do offer a true treasure hunt where everyone seems to find that exceptional item at an unbelievable price. Most customers will give you great satisfaction marks if you exceed their expectations, and Costco is light-years ahead of the other discount competitors in that respect."
Among our other findings: