Belk ranked below Dillard’s but above Macy’s. Lowe’s and Dollar Tree edged out their respective closest competitors, and Harris Teeter’s parent company tied with Food Lion’s parent.
That’s how some Charlotte-area retailers fared in an annual report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which showed consumers’ overall satisfaction with the retail sector dropped last year to the lowest level since 2007.
In the years after the recession, when shoppers reported the highest satisfaction with retail, companies used discounts, incentives and better customer service to stay competitive.
“Stores are (now) charging more, discounting isn’t as rampant, stores are a little bit more crowded and consumers aren’t getting the same level of customer service they were,” said Forrest Morgeson, ACSI’s director of research.
The report randomly surveyed 9,358 customers in six retail categories during November and December. Several Charlotte-area companies appeared in the survey, such as Matthews-based Harris Teeter and its parent company Kroger, which ranked in the top spot among pharmacies, unchanged from last year.
Charlotte-based Belk made its debut on the 2015 ACSI ranking, tying Kohl’s in customer satisfaction. Belk sold itself to a private equity firm in December. Another area retailer, Matthews-based Family Dollar, was sold to Dollar Tree in July.
Looking ahead, Morgeson said changes of ownership can weigh on shoppers’ perceptions of a brand.
“Something as simple as name changes, different assortment of products, those kinds of things that happen in the wake of ... changes in the corporate structure, they can upset some consumers,” Morgeson said.
Here are some highlights of the satisfaction report:
▪ Dropping 5.2 percent, satisfaction declined the most for drugstores, tying the category with supermarkets as the lowest-ranking in customer satisfaction.
▪ Satisfaction in the grocery category dropped 3.9 percent from last year. New York-based Wegmans, a relatively small chain with sights on North Carolina, ranked highest in the category, followed by Trader Joe’s. Florida-based Publix, which has been expanding aggressively in North Carolina, ranked No. 3, tying with Texas-based H-E-B Grocery Stores. A few notches down at No. 8 was Kroger/Harris Teeter, tying in satisfaction ranking with Delhaize, the parent company of Food Lion.
▪ Gas stations were the only retail category where satisfaction improved because prices at the pump are so low. The overall satisfaction score improved 2.7 percent.
▪ Overall satisfaction fell 3.9 percent from 2014 in the department and discount stores category. Nordstrom once again ranked No. 1, followed by Dillard’s. Belk and Kohl’s were tied at No. 4, still ahead of rival Macy’s, which ranked No. 13.
▪ Among discount stores, Family Dollar’s parent company Dollar Tree ranked No. 7, edging out competitor Dollar General. which ranked No. 11 in satisfaction.
▪ In the specialty retail sector, where year-over-year satisfaction dropped 2.5 percent, Costco was No. 1, followed by L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. Mooresville-based Lowe’s ranked No. 18 – above No. 21 Home Depot but below Wisconsin-based Menards, which ranked No. 5.
▪ Internet retail was once again the highest-scoring category, but overall satisfaction still dropped 2.4 percent from the prior year. Amazon was the top-ranked company, followed by Newegg, which sells computer hardware and software.