THE AMERICAN CUSTOMER Satisfaction Index for 2009 showed that, overall, consumers were happy with the retail experience despite the poor sales year retailers suffered in general.
Once again Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., topped the list of supermarket companies on the list, and saw its score rise by four percentage points, to 86, compared with a score of 76 overall for supermarkets, which was the same as a year ago. Other retail sectors, including specialty retailers, discount and department stores, and Internet retailers, all saw gains in satisfaction in 2009.
David Van Amburg, director of ACSI, said the poll, which is conducted by telephone among a broad spectrum of Americans, can be an indicator of future consumer spending. “The news certainly looks optimistic, although we have to be quite guarded,” he told SN last week. “Satisfaction with retailers overall has improved, and is in fact at an all-time high. That's cause for some optimism.”
That satisfaction translates into a desire to spend, he said, but the outlook for actual spending is tempered by what he described as “the other piece of the equation,” which is the actual ability to spend.
“No matter how satisfied we are as consumers, if credit is tight, if savings are low, if we are fearful about our job security, we may lack the means to spend to match our desire,” he said. “Taken on its own, the ACSI would suggest that we are going to see an increase in spending in the future, but of course that is very much dependent on the continuation of the stimulus, whether we are getting jobs back, all of the other side of the equation that must be in place for consumers to spend.”
The ACSI also correlates to stock performance, Van Amburg pointed out. On average, companies that saw improvement in ACSI in 2009 saw a stock price increase of 75%, or triple the overall increase of the market.
By contrast those with declining ACSI scores only saw a 22% increase in stock price, underperforming the market.
“As consumers are more satisfied, businesses generate more revenue; as they generate more revenue, they generate more profit; and in reaction to that, investors are more likely to invest capital,” Van Amburg explained.
Among other supermarkets in the poll, Cincinnati-based Kroger rose a point to 78, placing it in second behind Publix, followed by Minneapolis-based Supervalu, which rose three points to 77. They were followed by Whole Foods Market, up a point to 76; Winn-Dixie Stores, up a point to 74; Safeway, down three points to 72; and Wal-Mart Stores, up three points to 71.