During the holiday shopping period, American consumers gave higher shopping satisfaction marks to stores that provided accessible, friendly and competent sales staff, according to the 'R-Scores' retail benchmarking study from Meridian.
This season's retail channel leaders were Sam's Club, Walgreens, Office Depot, Circuit City, Target and Kohl's, all of which used their staff resources to full advantage to edge out their competitors.
The survey examined consumers' attitudes toward national retailers during the five-week holiday shopping period from late November until the end of December 2002. Meridian designed R-Scores to measure opinions about merchandise, store environments, service and overall satisfaction.
The latest R-Scores study shows a marked change in shoppers' perceptions about retailers, and about what is most important to their overall shopping satisfaction. Staff attributes, such as availability, responsiveness and competence, and also a pleasant shopping atmosphere, had a greater influence on shoppers than they did during the August 2002 'back-to-school' period.
Still of major importance were merchandise factors. The most crucial were: selection, the availability of desired clothing sizes, advertised items, trusted brands, and good quality. A good selection that meets the customer's expectations continues to be the primary driver in determining where shoppers spend their money.
In contrast, during the back-to-school period last year, consumers placed much greater emphasis on a store's advertised merchandise being in stock.
Common to both seasons (back-to-school and the holiday season), all other attributes out-weighed pricing in terms of impact on shopper satisfaction. Being the only merchandise-related factor that didn't correlate strongly with overall satisfaction, price came in last out of the twenty factors evaluated.
"Merchandise selection continues to be a strong factor in overall shopper satisfaction, and retailers that reduce their selection by focusing solely on price do so to their disadvantage," said Jeff Jacobs, executive vice president of strategy and planning for Meridian. "But the increased role that staff and atmosphere played in the holiday season survey is noteworthy."