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Service with a frown

Retail customer satisfaction slips slightly, a survey reveals.

By Mark Albright, Times Staff Writer
Published February 19, 2008


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Not only are retail sales weak, now chain store customer satisfaction is slipping again.

That's the conclusion of an annual survey compiled by University of Michigan business school researchers who see the results as a factor dampening customers' willingness to spend in a deteriorating economy.

While the retail customer satisfaction index released today slipped 0.3 percent to a solid "C" at 74.02, supermarkets improved their lot and discount and department stores and gas stations lost favor.

Meanwhile, online retailers led by Amazon.com continued to win higher grades than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, racking up improved ratings for the sixth consecutive year. And insurance companies such as State Farm and Allstate, which have not earned many new friends in Florida, fared better than retailers as a group.

There were winners and losers among retailers rated on their blend of products, services and shopping experience.

Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc. led all rated supermarket chains for the 14th consecutive year. But Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., which promotes itself as "Getting Better All the Time," found customers aren't so sure. Winn-Dixie gave up all of its 2006 improvement with a rating that dropped to a 71, the chain's worst rating since 1999. The rating underscores why Winn-Dixie launched its first major store remodeling program in years.

Home Depot Inc. erased all of its 2006 gains, hitting an all-time low 67 as its rival Lowe's Cos. inched up to 75.

Macy's rose 6 percent to a 75 and Dillard's slightly to a 76 while Sears Holdings Corp. dropped to a 71, its lowest rating since 1999.

JCPenney and Kohl's lost some of their luster, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plunged 6 percent to a 68, its lowest grade in the 15 years the survey has been done.

CVS Corp. slipped and Walgreen Inc. edged up. But both fell below the drugstore industry average.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or 727 893-8252.

Heading up

Company Percentchange Progressive Corp. +8.2 Macy's +5.6 Charles Schwab Corp. +5.0 TD Ameritrade +3.9 Expedia Inc. +3.9

Heading down

Company Percentchange Winn-Dixie Stores -6.6 Wal-Mart Stores* -5.6 UnitedHealth Group Inc. -4.4 Home Depot Inc. -4.3 Wellpoint -4.3

* In the department and discount store category; Wal-Mart was down 2.9 percent in the supermarket category.

Source: University of Michigan's customer satisfaction index

[Last modified February 18, 2008, 23:19:23]


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