Being the biggest retailer with the largest reach doesn't guarantee a special place in customers' hearts, according to a poll Consumer Reports recently conducted of its readers to find what they thought were the best stores.
Costco emerged as the readers' favorite in an 11-store field, with Dillard's coming in second. At the bottom of the list, Kmart ended up last and Walmart -- the world's largest retailer -- finished second to last.
The survey asked readers to judge stores on service, the speed of checkout, the ease of returning items and value. It also asked them to consider product quality and problems with the store and staff.
Many readers opted for Costco because of its prices, defined by Consumer Reports as being the best "bang for the buck." Readers also gave a thumbs-up across the board for the quality of the store's goods, ranging from clothing to jewelry to personal care and hardware. But they still thought the store's checkout times could be improved.
On the other hand, many readers grumbled about Walmart's longer lines and smaller aisles. The quality of merchandise -- such as apparel, jewelry and electronics -- also left much to be desired, they said. Meanwhile, roughly 44 percent of participants reported having problems with store staff.
Consumer Reports said the mega-chain had a similarly poor showing during a 2002 survey by the publication.
Readers said the low prices at both Costco and Walmart were their top reasons for shopping there. Readers also went to Sam's Club and Kohl's for the lower prices.
But location was the main motivation for frequenting other stores such as Kmart, Sears, Meijer and Target -- which readers said also offered low prices.
As for the department stores surveyed, readers said they shopped at J.C. Penney due to location and value. Some readers chose to shop at Macy's and Dillard's because they associated the stores with high-quality products -- and good locations in Macy's case.
Consumer Reports came up with the following scores after surveying almost 31,000 subscribers who made just under 57,000 trips to these 11 retail stores between April 2008 and April 2009:
Store and Reader Score (0-100)
Sam's Club: 78
Source: Consumer Reports