Ace Tops Home Improvement Retailer Study

June 10, 2013

Customers want home improvement retailers that provide a knowledgeable and readily available staff to address their needs, according to the J.D. Power & Associates 2013 Home Improvement Retailer Satisfaction Study released last week. For the seventh consecutive year, Ace Hardware ranked highest in the study.

The study, now in its seventh year, measures customer satisfaction with home improvement retail stores based on performance in five factors: staff and service (including availability, courtesy, knowledge, ease of checkout and ease of returning merchandise); store facility (including ease of finding merchandise, cleanliness, store layout and design, availability of parking and convenience of store location); merchandise (including availability, variety, usefulness of product information displays and selection of brands available); price; and sales and promotions.

Ace Hardware achieved a score of 803 on a 1,000-point scale and performed particularly well in the staff and service, and store facility factors. Menards ranked second with a score of 770, and performed particularly well in the price, and sales and promotions factors.

"By remaining focused on meeting customer needs through superior sales staff and service, home improvement retailers have the opportunity to leverage a positive customer experience into an increased share of wallet and more customer advocates," says Christina Cooley, director of the home improvement industries practice at J.D. Power.

According to the study, on average, 27 percent of customers say they "definitely will" purchase at their primary retailer again, and 30 percent "definitely will" recommend the retailer to others. However, among the highest ranked retailers these percentages go as high as 32 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

The average amount customers spend per year is slightly lower in 2013 at $1,626, compared to $1,719 in 2012, making the competition to capture a greater share of wallet more fierce. Customers spend an average of 73 percent of their annual home improvement budget at their primary home improvement retailer.

While location is a primary driver for customers to select a home improvement retail store, it's an outstanding experience that keeps them coming back to the store. Notably, retailers performing below average have a higher rate of customers purchasing online at the store's website compared with higher-performing retailers. Though spending through any channel is positive, this may also indicate that when customers are not satisfied with a retailer's in-store experience they may avoid going to the store altogether or choose another retailer with better sales and staff service. Retailers may also miss out on the ancillary purchases made once a customer is in the store.

"Home improvement retailers are continually looking for alternative ways to stay competitive and gain a larger share of wallet,"  Cooley says. "Before you can satisfy a customer, you have to create a compelling reason for them to come in the door. Once they arrive, you have many opportunities to delight them with staff assistance and store services."

The 2013 Home Improvement Retailer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 4,100 customers who purchased a home improvement product or service within the previous 12 months from a retail store that sells home improvement products. Customers evaluated their primary home improvement retailer. The study was fielded in January and February 2013.