NEW YORK (
) -- When it comes to retail, the shopper is always right.
Of course, companies strive to please their shareholders, but if the consumer isn't happy neither are investors. And while price is always a priority for shoppers, especially amid economic turmoil, there are other factors that make one retailer more desirable to a shopper than another.
Bearing this in mind,
surveyed 30,666 of its readers to find out their favorite places to shop. The retailers were rated based on several variables, including value, service and product quality. Each retailer was then awarded a score between 0 and 100, with a reading of 100 meaning all respondents were completely satisfied with the retailer. A reading of 80, according to Consumer Reports, translates to "very satisfied."
Which retailer is America's favorite? The answer may surprise you...
Kmart, a division of
, came in last of the retailers that were surveyed with a score of 72 and was the only store to score below-average for value. It also received low marks for service and checkout speed, with 65% of respondents having at least one problem while shopping the store.
Kmart was also more likely to have hard-to-find price tags, limited staff availability and items that were out of stock.
Still, Kmart has been improving since its bankruptcy days. The chain reported a 1.7% uptick in first-quarter same-store sales, with strength in apparel, home and toys divisions. But it is still seeing weakness in its food category.
overrated? Some shoppers seem to think so. Despite the discount giant's significant price cuts -- or "roll-backs" -- shoppers still said prices at 10 other retailers, including
, Sears and
, were on par with Wal-Mart. The company scored a rating of 73 in the
Wal-Mart was also the only chain to receive below-average quality scores in more than half of the product categories, with consumers disappointed in its clothes for men, women and children, as well as in its watch and jewelry selection and electronic entertainment.
Management is fully aware of these complaints, as CFO Thomas Schoewe said during Wal-Mart's first-quarter conference call that they missed the ball when it comes to apparel.
Wal-Mart is also attempting to grow its electronics business
, saying last month that it will stock more Internet-connected flat-panel televisions, Blu-ray players, mobile phones and routers.
The retailers' massive superstores are also a turnoff for many. Wal-Mart has been trying to rectify this problem through its Project Impact initiative. The stores that have already been renovated through the program are outperforming, Schoewe said.
But with a score like this it shouldn't come as a surprise then that Wal-Mart has been struggling to retain shoppers as the economy slowly improves. In the first quarter the company reported a 1.1% decrease in same-store sales, its fourth consecutive quarterly decline.
comes in with a reading of 77, as respondents view the department store's service as better than average. Macy's also scored fairly high in its apparel segments, personal care, home décor and kitchenware segments.
Macy's has been slowly regaining its status through the implementation of its My Macy's localization initiative. The program, which was tested in 2008 and rolled out nationally in 2009, tailors merchandise to local markets. Macy's also restructured its managerial staff to allow for a greater focus on individual stores and localized buying and planning.
The company at least partially attributed the initiative to its return to the black in the first quarter.
Unsurprisingly, a major part of Sears' reader score of 77 stems from its high rating for its hardware category.
But despite its decent ranking, Sears has been struggling. It is one of the few retailers still seeing profit declines year-over-year. In the first quarter, the department store headed by investor
reported a 39% plunge in income.
Still, Sears saw a 1.2% increase in its domestic same-store sales, which it attributed to home appliances. This offset declines in tool and home electronics.
6. Sam's Club
, which is owned by Wal-Mart, received a score of 78 from readers. The warehouse chain was criticized for its customer service, long checkout lines and staff, but had the best record for having advertised specials in stock.
Through its Project Portfolio initiative, Sam's Club has been working to accelerate sales. The company is adding new products in its grocery category, like imported cheeses, and remodeling stores. As part of the remodels, Sam's Club is widening its aisles, making stores easier to navigate and make room for more merchandises.
Already at the 39 stores that have been remodeled, Sam's Club is saying it has seen a boost in sales. The company plans to have 150 stores remodeled by the end of the year. The remainder will be completed over the next two years.
In the first quarter, Sam's Club same-store sales inched up 0.7%, excluding fuel. That outpaces Wal-Mart's sales, which fell during the same period.
Despite partnerships with designers like Zac Posen and Cynthia Vincent, shoppers aren't wowed by
merchandise. Overall, Target garnered a score of 79, with lower readings for its women's clothing and watches and jewelry.
Still, the discounter has been able to grow its traffic and sales month over month, reporting a 1.3% increase in same-store sales for May. This marks Target's sixth straight monthly comparable sales increase.
Target specifically called out its strength in discretionary categories like apparel and home goods in its first-quarter earnings report.
In an effort to draw shoppers, Target also announced on Thursday that it will begin offering holders of its branded debit and credit cards a 5% discount. This program will start in the third or fourth quarter.
4. J.C. Penney
earned a score of 80, seeing strength in its service, store environment and home décor category.
The department store has been trying to revamp its image and sell not only merchandise but an experience. It's apparently been working, as the company saw improved margins and sales growth in its first quarter.
Still, J.C. Penney's turnaround hasn't followed a straight line. The company reported a 1.8% slip in May same-store sales, a bigger drop than Wall Street predicted. During the month, men's products, women's accessories, shoes and handbags were the best performing divisions.
Looking ahead, J.C. Penney expects same-store sales to grow between 2.5% and 3% in the second quarter.
came in at about average in most categories, with a score of 81. But it did draw a significant amount of complaints about its narrow aisles, which consumers said hamper their shopping experience.
Kohl's has been remodeling stores, widening aisles and upgrading fitting rooms and customer-service centers.
Still, the department store has been a standout amid the economic downturn. In May it reported a 3.5% uptick in same-store sales, compared with a smaller 1.5% increase predicted. Kohl's has reported an increase in every month of the year except April.
Kohl's has been able to win with its compelling private-label merchandise, with brands such as Fila, Chaps and Simply Vera by Vera Wang.
was the winner when it comes to customer service, helping to give the department store a score of 82. It also earned high marks for its service and checkout speed, as well as for its product quality in apparel, personal care, home décor and kitchenware.
Dillard's, which falls between Macy's and
, said its May same-store sales remained flat, which is better than the 2% decline analysts forecast.
During the month, cosmetic sales were strong, while home and furniture saw some weakness.
ranked as America's favorite place to shop, with a reading of 85. Shoppers flocked to the warehouse club not only for its wallet-friendly prices and value, but its wide selection and quality of merchandise.
The wholesaler boasts private labels like Kirkland, which tend to be on par with national brands.
The only area where Costco completely fails is in its long checkout lines. It scored high in value, and the product quality of its apparel, personal care products, home décor, kitchenware, electronics and sporting goods and toys.
On Thursday, Costco reported a 9% jump in May same-store sales, but this fell short of Wall Street's forecast of a gain of 9.7%. It attributed the miss to the later Memorial Day weekend, which shifted some sales into June.
-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.
READERS ALSO LIKE:
Follow TheStreet.com on
and become a fan on