Ace Hardware, Costco top consumer choices for home improvement, furnishings

Costco
In the home furnishings category, Costco earned the top spot with a composite loyalty score of 72%. (Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0)

Ace Hardware and Costco were voted the best home improvement store and best home retailer by consumers. 

According to a recent study by Market Force Information, a worldwide leader in customer experience management, consumers were asked to rate their most recent experience at a home improvement or furniture retailer and their likelihood of recommending it to others. 

For home improvement, Ace Hardware scored No. 1 with a composite loyalty score of 63%, Menards ranked second with 60%, Lowe’s was third with 55% and Home Depot was last among the brands studied with 51%.

Ace also ranked first for other categories such as ease of finding merchandise, staff service and knowledge and speedy checkouts. Merchandise variety and value was awarded to Menards and parking availability to Lowe’s. Home Depot ranked last in all service categories as well as cleanliness and value. 

(Market Force Information)
Home improvement spending has been on the rise, up more than 30% in April over last year, the strongest advance since the beginning of 2000, according to Bloomberg. Market Force’s research found 60% of consumers are do-it-yourself enthusiasts, while another 22% prefer to buy the materials but outsource the labor. 

“Home improvement could be a bright light in the retail sector, with remodeling projects on the rise and consumers more confident about investing in their homes,” said Ray Walsh, CEO of Market Force Information. “Our research shows that retailers must continue to focus on the customer experience to differentiate their offer and capture a greater share of this growing market, excelling in areas such as value, store cleanliness, and merchandise variety and availability.”

One-fifth of those surveyed belonged to a hardware store loyalty program, with Ace’s program the most popular with 67% participation. Lowe’s was a distant second at 21%, followed by Menards with 11%. Home Depot ranked last, 8%. 

In the home furnishings category, Costco earned the top spot with a composite loyalty score of 72%, with Ikea a close second at 70%, followed by Target, TJMaxx and Kohl’s. 

Ikea lead for value and Target scored the highest marks for customer service and speedy checkouts. 

(Market Force Information)
When it comes to loyalty programs, 24% of those surveyed participate in a program by the home retailer they most recently visited. Kohl’s had the highest participation at 61%, followed by Big Lots, Ikea and Costco. 

“What I found interesting about the study results is that despite the increased usage of online ordering and comments in the press about the death of the retail store, the in-store experience still matters to consumers and effective customer service continues to drive sales," Brad Christian, managing director for Market Force Information, told FierceRetail.

"Our research showed that 58% of customers were helped by a salesperson during their last shopping experience at a home improvement store, and over half of those interactions included a specific product recommendation,” Christian said. "Shoppers were more likely to purchase the product that was recommended by the salesperson. Staffing stores with well-trained store personnel that can ask appropriate needs-assessment questions and make sound product recommendations will continue to help brick-and-mortar stores justify their place in retailers’ growth strategies.”