Savvy shoppers weigh in on the nation’s major chain stores

Consumer Reports News: February 07, 2012 04:08 PM

We asked more than 26,000 readers to rate their shopping experiences, as well as tell us their top three reasons for why they shop at their walk-in store of choice. People tended to choose low prices over high quality, but responses varied by retailer.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed subscribers who told us about 55,108 shopping experiences buying a range of products at Costco, JCPenney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target, and Walmart.

When it came to that list of 10 major chain stores, Costco was a standout, and Kmart and Walmart were at the bottom of the list as far as overall satisfaction was concerned.

So why do people shop at their store of choice? Low prices was the reason why people shop at either top-rated Costco or lower-rated Walmart, and Kohl's and Sam's Club were also called out for their low prices. Other stores were chosen because of their location, including JCPenney, Kmart, Meijer and Target. Just 28 percent cited high-quality products as a major reason to shop at their store of choice, including Macy's and Sears.

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.”

Here are some other shopping tips, including ways to save:

  • Check daily deals: Hundreds of daily-deal sites, including Groupon and Living Social, offer discounts on goods and local services. Kohl’s, Target, Meijer, and Sears also offer daily deals on their sites, and even Google has jumped in with Google Offers.
  • Use bots: Sites like BizRate, DealTime, MySimon, PriceGrabber, and scour the Web or their own massive databases for the items you want, then provide a list of prices and places to buy.
  • Work apps: Smart-phone apps can help you compare deals while you’re in a store. Red Laser scans barcodes and searches for the best deals online and at stores near you, while Amazon's Price Check scans barcodes in stores and shows the Amazon price for goods sold on its site.
  • Get free shipping: You can find a slew of free-shipping offers at, and if you order online, shop on sites that offer free shipping with no minimum purchase (such as L.L.Bean, Nordstrom, and

To see the full article and find reader ratings for each retail store see Where to buy almost anything (available to subscribers).

Maggie Shader

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