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In a first, Publix toppled from No. 1 spot in grocery satisfaction

[Times files]

[Times files]

Publix Super Markets, the Florida juggernaut of the grocery industry, was toppled from its No. 1 national industry ranking for the first time by two supermarket chains, says a report released Wednesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI.

Trader Joe's, which just opened its first store in St. Petersburg, tied with an upstate New York-based grocery chain called Wegmans at No. 1. Wegmans, which operates from Massachusetts to Virginia, has been on a tear recently, beating out such exalted brands as Apple, Costco and Amazon to take the top spot in a recent Harris Poll measuring corporate reputations.

"While customer satisfaction with Publix is still very strong, this is the first year that the chain is not on top among supermarkets," the ACSI report said, noting Publix was tied in customer satisfaction with a Texas supermarket chain called H-E-B.

Should Floridians care? Lakeland-based Publix is still ranked highly and continues to hold a strong grasp on the No. 1 market share among grocery stores in this state. Wal-Mart, No. 2 in Florida market share, ranked dead last in the ACSI survey. Still, it has been a long time since any other grocer has managed to pierce Publix's top standing.

Among other surprises in the ACSI results, Lowe's clearly outpaced rival Home Depot in customer satisfaction.

Overall, the ACSI survey found customer satisfaction with retail is down for the first time in four years, a trend reinforced by weak sales by many retailers over the holiday season. "Unless consumer spending picks up dramatically, we won't see much — if any — increase in the pace of economic recovery," said ACSI chairman Claes Fornell.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

Best and worst in customer satisfaction

Supermarkets

Top 3

1. Wegmans/Trader Joe's (tied): Wegmans, based in upstate New York, doesn't operate in Florida. Trader Joe's just opened its second bay area store.

3. Publix/H-E-B (tied): Long-dominant Publix falls out of first place. H-E-B is based in Texas.

Bottom 3

3. Ahold USA: Dutch grocery parent is not active in Florida.

2. Giant Eagle: Pittsburgh-based grocer is not active in Florida.

1. Wal-Mart: Controls second-largest share of Florida grocery market after Publix.

Specialty retail stores

Top 3

1. Costco: A perennial favorite.

2. L Brands: New to survey, made up of Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works.

3. Barnes & Noble: Impressive ranking given the devastation of the retail bookstore industry.

Bottom 3

3. GameStop: Just Google the name to see all the griping.

2. Home Depot: Once a hot retailer, now lagging far behind competitor Lowe's.

1. Gap: Includes Banana Republic and Old Navy brands. All scored low in the satisfaction survey.

Department/discount stores

Top 3

1. Nordstrom: Typically tops, it only added to its high ranking in 2014.

2. Dillard's: Tied at average rank of smaller chains.

3. Kohl's/Target (tied): Kohl's dipped a bit, Target rose — after the problems with its hacked credit cards.

Bottom 3

3. Sears: Continues its decline, keeps shrinking its Kmart affiliate.

2. Exchange: Part of Department of Defense, caters to military's retail needs.

1. Wal-Mart: Hit lowest satisfaction level since 2007.

Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index, rankings based on stores listed by ACSI

In a first, Publix toppled from No. 1 spot in grocery satisfaction 02/18/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 7:21pm]
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