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

[Times files]
[Times files]
Published Feb. 19, 2015

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.