Wegmans is No. 1 with shoppers

Wegmans now ranks as the favorite grocery store of U.S. shoppers with Publix a very close second, according to a new survey from Market Force.

It's a come-from-behind story: Wegmans didn't even make the list in 2015 but garnered enough votes in 2016 to top the list. Market Force credits Wegmans' focus on employee training as the key strategy to winning over shoppers.

Wegmans also ranked No. 1 in a recent Harris Poll.

Publix ranked second (by one point) for the fourth year in a row. Trader Joe's was third, although the chain slipped five points from the year before. Hy-Vee and Aldi rounded out the top five.

Market Force asked consumers to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer to others. The results were averaged to rank each brand on a Composite Loyalty Index.

Different retailers excelled in different areas.

Publix and Wegmans led in most, including the ability to find desired items, cleanliness and specialty department service. Aldi was the price leader, followed by WinCo and Costco. Trader Joe's ranked first for cashier courtesy while ShopRite, Meijer and Kroger offer the best sales and promotions.

Hy-Vee also performed well across the board, ranking in the top five in many categories.

Some trends are growing, according to the survey. Shoppers are increasingly looking for local and organic foods – roughly 49 percent of shoppers said they preferred to buy organic items when given the chance.

Prepared foods are being purchased from grocers more often, the continuation of trend begun in the 1990s.

But shoppers are slow to embrace new initiatives, including home delivery and in-store pickup. A whopping 99 percent of shoppers still do their grocery shopping in person.

Just 5 percent had ordered online for home delivery in the past 90 days, 2 percent ordered online and picked up in-store, and 2 percent used "Click and Collect" – ordering online and collecting through the grocer's drive-up, much like Walmart's expanding curbside pickup program.

This last option carried a high degree of customer satisfaction: Of the 4 percent who have ever tried click and collect, 73 percent were satisfied with the experience and nearly half are repeat users.

Another technology trend, mobile apps, is gaining in popularity and use. Close to half of all shoppers said they had used an app in the 90 days prior and most used a grocer's own app rather than that of a third party.

Still, circulars reign supreme when it comes to influencing shopper behavior; nearly two-thirds say they shop a particular grocer because of what's listed in the circular.

For more:
- see this Market Force study

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