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Wegmans, Costco top grocers in new survey

BY Allison Cerra

BOULDER, Colo. A new consumer survey conducted by Market Force Information found that Wegmans and Costco hold the No. 1 spot as grocery retailers in the United States.

Market Force polled 6,000 consumers last month in a survey designed to shed light on which grocers are preferred in the leading grocery categories. The survey noted that quality, not quantity, could be a shaping factor. Market Force said this conclusion was based on the fact that consumers are likely to vote for retailers most familiar to them, and drilled down into its results to determine which chain would win out when the number of store locations was taken into account. For example, while Kroger has almost 2,500 stores in North America and was voted one of the top grocers in the nation, Wegmans — which scored 3% of the total votes for favorite supermarket — only boasts 75 stores, positioning Wegmans above Kroger in the results.

“From high-quality produce to courteous staff, cleanliness to inviting atmosphere, Wegmans is a standout favorite grocer with consumers,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. “The fact that it can deliver all of these key performance attributes, and also rank highest on providing low prices, is an enormous accomplishment, and clearly earns the chain renowned customer loyalty.”

Meanwhile, when looking at such mass grocers as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target and Costco, Market Force found similar results. While Walmart garnered the highest number of total votes, with fully 42% of the total, its store count also must be factored in. When re-indexed based on the number of stores, Costco took the lead. That lead is again substantiated based on the consumer ranking of mass grocers against the attributes they care about most. Costco scored highest on 12 of 16 attributes, and tied for first for the remaining four.

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Ralphs, Food 4 Less raise funds for children

BY Allison Cerra

LOS ANGELES Two banners owned by Kroger are raising funds for pediatric research and hospitals.

Ralphs has rolled out its charitable campaign to benefit City of Hope, which aids pediatric research, treatment and educational programs. Ralphs encourages customers and team members to support the City of Hope’s pediatric cancer “Kids 4 Hope” program through the supermarket chain’s nonprofit arm, The Ralphs Fund, through Feb. 27. Last year, Ralphs provided more than $8 million in cash and in-kind donations to organizations focused on health, education, the fight against hunger, developing our youth, and the environment.

Meanwhile, Food 4 Less announced last week said it would raise funds to support children’s hospitals in the communities its stores serve in Southern California, southern Nevada, and the greater Chicago area. In addition, the supermarket chain’s Foods Co Division is collecting donations for children’s hospitals in central and northern California. The children’s hospital fund-raising campaign will run from February 1 through May 22, 2010. Since 2005, Food 4 Less/Foods Co, its team members and customers have given more than $1 million to children’s hospitals.

“With thousands of children diagnosed each year with cancer, the City of Hope’s Kids for Hope program is important in the fight against the disease, and Ralphs is proud to support this important effort,” said Mike Donnelly, Ralphs president.

Ralphs operates more than 260 supermarkets from its headquarters in Los Angeles. Food 4 Less, also headquartered in Los Angeles, operates 146 warehouse-format supermarkets under the banners Food 4 Less in Southern California, Nevada, Illinois and Indiana, and Foods Co in Northern California.

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Weis Markets reports gains in fiscal-year earnings

BY Michael Johnsen

SUNBURY, Pa. For the fiscal year ended Dec. 26, 2009, Weis Markets posted sales gains of 3.9% to $2.5 billion on the strength of comparable-store sales increases of 1.8%, the Pennsylvania-based grocer announced Monday.

Weis also said its fourth-quarter sales increased 8.4% to $671.4 million compared with $619.4 million for the same period in 2008. The company’s fourth-quarter comparable-store sales increased 1.9%. Meanwhile, the company reported diluted earnings per share of 58 cents for the fourth quarter compared with 63 cents for the same period a year ago.

“We continue to make progress in a difficult market environment, marked by cautious customer spending and price deflation in key categories,” stated David Hepfinger, Weis Markets’ president and CEO. “Despite these challenges, we have produced five consecutive quarters of strong operating results through improved operating performance, more focused promotional programs and increased efficiencies at store and distribution levels.”

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