Costco: America’s Best Chain Store Shopping Experience?

In What's New, Industry News by Accessories Staff

Yonkers, NY—Even with its controversial increase in its member fees last November, Costco, the nation’s largest warehouse club, scored top place among Consumer Reports’ survey of retail shopping experiences.

In a survey of more than 26,000 shoppers who rated both their in-store and online shopping experience among 10 of America’s biggest retailers, Costco was the only chain to earn an outstanding grade for the overall quality of its merchandise, whether in stores or online.

And it earned above-average scores for all 10 product categories rated, including electronic entertainment, jewelry, and sporting goods. Costco’s website did better than its walk-in stores on all counts except product quality (where the two types tied) and earned top marks for layout, product value, and checkout.

In its Consumer Reports National Research Center subscribers told Consumer Reports about 55,108 shopping experiences at Costco, JCPenney, Kmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Meijer, Sam’s Club, Sears, Target, and Walmart. Online experiences were included for the first time, too.

Unpopular: Long Lines at Check Out

Nonetheless, in-store shoppers found “a few chinks in Costco’s armor: The chain’s walk-in stores scored below average for selection, long lines at checkout, and service, and its shoppers were more likely than those elsewhere to complain about a lack of fitting rooms,” the survey reported.

Shoppers’ reviews of other retailers  in the report include:

Kohl’s and JCPenney earned above average scores for the quality of their goods in all product categories. “People were especially happy with the value and layout at Kohl’s stores.”

●Consumers rated Target’s store layouts higher than for some other chains. Otherwise, the in-store shopping experience was just average, and Target’s website was not especially easy to use, shoppers said.

Macy’s rated better than average for product quality and layout. Macy’s was the only retailer besides Costco to receive raves for its kitchenware and personal-care products but shoppers also praised the chain’s apparel and home-decor selections.

Meijer scored better than some others for layout and the quality of kitchenware, personal-care items, and electronic entertainment, but scores for its clothing were lukewarm.

Sears‘ overall scores for its walk-in stores and website were similar, but the chain’s online customer service rated lower than its walk-in service. Respondents said Sears, Costco, and Sam’s Club were better places to buy hardware.

Sam’s Club stores—online and brick and mortar—scored  about the same as Sears overall. Respondents who shopped at its walk-in stores complained of long checkout lines and limited selection but rated product quality and layout as better than average.

Walmart and Kmart brick and mortar stores scored much lower than those of other retailers. Walmart might be associated with low prices, but respondents said the product value was better at Costco and Kohl’s, the report found.  Walmart was the only chain to earn below average scores for the quality of its men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, too. Moreover, Walmart shoppers were especially prone to complain about long checkout lines and inadequate customer service. In addition, 23% of the Walmart shoppers who returned an item to one of its stores the previous year reported at least one problem, significantly more than at any other retailer. (The problem was usually that they were offered only store credit.)

Kmart was the only chain to score below average for value. Kmart also received low marks for selection, service, and checkout speed. Kmart also received below-average scores for men’s and women’s clothing.

In addition to the store ratings, the report also includes Consumer Reports reader scores for the product offerings at all of the major stores including clothing, watches and jewelry, personal care, hardware, home decor, kitchenware, electronic entertainment, and sporting goods and toys. The complete ratings for all 10 chains, including in-store and online ratings for quality, value checkout, customer service and in-store and website layout are available at  or in the March issue of Consumer Reports.

About Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has more than 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


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