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Independents are all-stars among sporting-goods stores

Chain stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Modell’s, and The Sports Authority don't make shoppers as happy

Consumer Reports magazine: May 2012

Illustration: Alison Seiffer

Independently owned sporting-­goods stores and outdoor chains including Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and REI make sports-minded shoppers happier than do chains such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Modell’s, and The Sports Authority and big-box stores such as Costco, Sears, and Walmart. That’s the conclusion from a survey of more than 3,000 ConsumerReports.org subscribers who told us about buying products as varied as treadmills, tents, rackets, and roller skates at walk-in stores.

Of respondents who shopped at independent stores, 84 percent said they were highly satisfied with their experiences, and 81 percent who shopped at outdoor chains felt that way. By contrast, 62 percent of people who bought at sports chains and 54 percent of those who bought from big-box stores were highly satisfied.

Other highlights

  • Independents earned high marks for customer service.
  • Independents and outdoor chains were tops in brand and model selection. Big-box stores came in last. But across all store types, shoppers cited “limited selection of sizes, colors, or styles/models” as their No. 1 problem.
  • Independents and outdoor chains also scored highest for product quality. Almost 90 percent of shoppers at those types of stores said the quality was excellent or very good, compared with 71 percent at sports chains and 55 percent at big-box stores.
  • Independents and outdoor chains were most likely to provide excellent or very good value. Although readers cited lower prices as a reason to choose big-box stores, just 57 percent who bought there rated the value as excellent or very good, compared with 75 percent for independents and 70 percent for outdoor chains.
  • Shoppers at independents were four times as likely as those at other store types to say that in-store demonstration facilities influenced where they shopped.
  • About two-thirds of shoppers researched before buying. Of those who called the store first, most said it helped a lot.
  • People who shopped around, waited for a sale, or used a rewards card saved a median of $25 off their purchase.

Bottom line. The next time you need gear, check out independent sporting-goods stores and outdoor chains.

By the numbers

Shoppers rating each attribute excellent or very good, by store type.

Attribute Independent
stores
Outdoor
stores
Sports
chains
Big-box
stores
Knowledge of staff 86% 73% 50% 39%
Ease of checkout 85 78 64 51
Attentiveness of staff 83 73 50 34
Service quality 82 69 47 26

Source: Consumer Reports National Research Center online survey

Editor's Note: A version of this article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine with the headline "Independent Sports Stores are Tops."
   

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