LOS ANGELES Wegmans and Trader Joe's draw top marks from shoppers while Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the largest U.S. grocery retailer, is near the bottom in a new survey, Consumer Reports said on Monday.
The rankings come at a key time for grocers, as cash-strapped consumers have been skipping trips to restaurants and buying groceries as they try to cook less expensive meals.
Besides privately held Wegmans and Trader Joe's, other chains that received high marks were Publix Super Markets Inc, Raley's, Ruddick Corp's Harris Teeter, Fareway, Costco Wholesale Corp, Whole Foods Market, Market Basket, WinCo Foods, and Stater Bros, according to Consumer Reports.
Consumer satisfaction improved since the magazine's last supermarket survey in 2005, with service, checkout speed and quality of store brands, baked goods, and produce all scoring better this year.
Still, no store was perfect.
"The few chains that were spotless, offered standout meat and produce, and had helpful and friendly staff and quick checkout earned only average scores for price, at best," according to Consumer Reports, which is published by Consumers Union, an independent nonprofit group.
Respondents said Trader Joe's, Costco, Market Basket, WinCo, Aldi Inc, and Supervalu Inc's Save-A-Lot had lower prices than peers, but were only "so-so" for perishables and service.
Wegmans and Whole Foods were better for meat and produce while Wegmans, Trader Joe's and Raley's earned high marks for service.
Wal-Mart, the chain where the highest percentage of survey respondents shopped -- 14 percent, landed near the bottom of the ratings, with low scores for service and perishables.
Discount rival Target Corp had better satisfaction scores than Wal-Mart, however it has only 200 locations with a full grocery store inside, Consumer Reports said.
The No. 1 gripe from shoppers was the lack of open checkout lanes. Wal-Mart was the worst offender: Half of the respondents who shopped there complained about not having enough open lanes.
Shoppers also groused about congested aisles and out-of-stock advertised specials.
One-third of all respondents reported that they had switched stores as they searched for lower prices.
Consumer Reports asked 32,599 respondents about visits to supermarkets, supercenters or warehouse clubs in the past year. The ratings included information from 48,831 store visits.
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Matthew Lewis)