YONKERS, N.Y. -- Raley's Supermarkets, West Sacramento, Calif., has been rated the No. 1 supermarket chain in the nation by readers of Consumer Reports magazine here.
According to a survey in the September issue, Raley's moved up one notch from the previous survey to be ranked at the top of the list of 38 chains, with a reader score of 83, earning the best ratings on courtesy, checkout, perishables and cleanliness, and average ratings on prices, store brands and variety.
Raley's operates 147 stores in northern California, Nevada and New Mexico. It was second in the magazine's last survey in 1997.
In second place this year was Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., with an 82 rating, scoring top marks on courtesy, perishables and checkouts; high marks on meat, store brands and variety, and average marks on price and cleanliness. Wegmans was not mentioned by enough readers in 1997 to make that year's list, a Consumers Report spokeswoman told SN.
The top-ranked chain in 1997, Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., scored 81, receiving top marks for courtesy and bakery; high marks for checkout, produce, meat, store brands and specials in stock, and average marks for prices.
Consumer Reports said the rankings are based on more than 18,000 responses to the magazine's annual questionnaire, reflecting readers' experiences during 1998 and early 1999. Differences of less than 4 points are statistically not meaningful, the magazine pointed out.
The current survey is the magazine's third, following similar rankings in 1993 and 1997.
Below the Top 3 were two chains tied for fourth: Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C., and Hannaford Bros. Co., Scarborough, Maine (now part of Delhaize America, Salisbury, N.C.), with a score of 78 each. Hannaford received top marks on specials in stock and high marks for courtesy, prices, checkout and cleanliness, while Harris Teeter got high marks for courtesy, checkout, cleanliness and perishables but below average marks on prices.
The chains were ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the 1997 study.
Rounding out the top rankings were H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, with a 77 score; and five chains tied at 75: Schnuck Markets, St. Louis; Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa; Vons Grocery Co., Arcadia, Calif. (a division of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif.); Cub Foods, Minneapolis (a division of Supervalu, Minneapolis); and Giant Food, Landover, Md. (a subsidiary of Ahold USA, Chantilly, Va.).
Among industry leaders, Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, and Safeway were tied at 74 and the pre-merger Kroger Co., Cincinnati, had a 73 reader score.
At the bottom of this year's list were Grand Union Co., Wayne, N.J., and A&P's Waldbaum's division in Central Islip, N.Y., tied at 63, and A&P, Montvale, N.J., at 66. In the 1997 survey A&P and Grand Union were tied for the last spot.
Among other findings in the report:
The three chains that consumers said had the lowest prices were Wal-Mart Supercenters, Cub Foods and H.E. Butt.
While warehouse clubs scored higher marks than traditional supermarkets for their competitive prices, they lagged behind in such areas as variety and speed of checkout.
Of the nation's three major warehouse clubs, Costco Wholesale scored slightly higher than BJ's or Sam's Club, largely on the strength of its perishables.
Among on-line grocery companies, Webvan scored the highest on ease of use and variety, followed by a tie between Albertsons.com and ShopLink. Receiving average ratings were Peapod, Streamline and NetGrocer because of more difficulties or confusion composing a shopping list and more limited varieties.
In a sidebar report on Kingston, N.Y., where Hannaford, Wal-Mart Supercenters and Sam's Club compete, Wal-Mart's prices were only 6 cents lower than Hannaford's on a basket of 15 identical items.