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Where to buy almost anything

More than 26,000 readers rate the nation’s major chain stores

Consumer Reports magazine: March 2012

Meijer is generally credited with opening the first one-stop shopping supercenter in 1962. Today Meijer stores sell auto supplies, clothing, electronics, furniture, groceries, sporting goods, and just about everything else. But by now, so many retailers offer the same goods that it’s hard to know where to shop.

To help you decide, the Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed subscribers who told us about 55,108 shopping experiences buying a range of products (PDF available to subscribers) at Costco, JCPenney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target, and Walmart. The main news: Costco pleased survey respondents better than any other store.

Whatever store you choose, try its website, too. Our respondents said the quality, selection, and value of the goods online equaled or surpassed those of store-bought purchases.

Readers also said that buying was easier online than in stores. “Go into a big department store around 8 o’clock at night, and it can be difficult to find someone to check you out,” says Jack Abelson, a retail consultant. “But you can buy online at that time, and it’s quick and convenient.”

The most prevalent problems walk-in customers said they faced were long checkout lines, a lack of sales help, and out-of-stock items.

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