America's favorite home improvement retailer is...

A smaller-format, neighborhood-oriented retailer beat out big-box competitors to rank as the nation's favorite home improvement retailer in a just-released study. 
 
Ace Hardware, known for its neighborly service and an intense focus on the customer experience, earned the top spot, with a composite loyalty score of 63%, in a study by Market Force Information. 
 
Menards ranked second, with a 60% score, followed by Lowe’s, with 55%, and Home Depot, with 51%. (In order to be included in the category, a traditional home improvement brand must have been selected by 100 or more respondents representing 2% or more of total. Only Ace, Menards, Lowe's and Home Depot qualified). 
 
Market Force also looked at how the top brands fare in operational and product attributes that matter most to consumers. Ace Hardware ranked first in most categories, with particularly strong marks for ease of finding merchandise, staff service and knowledge, and speedy checkouts.  
 
Menards scored highest for merchandise variety and value, while Lowe’s earned the top spot for parking availability. Home Depot ranked last of the brands in all service categories, as well as cleanliness and value. 
 
Market Force’s research revealed that 60% of consumers consider themselves “DIY enthusiasts,” who not only purchase the materials and products themselves, but also complete their own home improvement projects. Another 22% fall in the “do-it-for-me” group that purchases the materials and products, but outsources the labor. 
 
"Home improvement could be a bright light in the retail sector with remodeling projects on the rise and consumers more confident about investing in their homes,” said Ray Walsh, CEO of Market Force Information. “Our research shows that retailers must continue to focus on the customer experience to differentiate their offer and capture a greater share of this growing market, excelling in areas such as value, store cleanliness, and merchandise variety and availability.”
 
In other findings:
 
• Home Depot’s app is most popular, with 45% using it, followed by Lowe’s, Walmart, Ikea and Menards. Of the 18% of consumers who indicated they have used an app, 93% of them said the app was helpful. 
 
• One-fifth reported that they participate in the loyalty program offered by the retailer they most recently visited. Ace Hardware’s program is overwhelmingly the most popular with 67% participation, Lowe’s ranked a distant second with 21%, Menards was third with 11% and Home Depot trailed with 8%. 
 
• Nineteen percent indicated they have a home improvement store-branded credit card, with most choosing Lowe’s (25%) and Home Depot (21%). Just 7% have a Menards card and 3% have an Ace card.  
 
For the home improvement rankings, Market Force Information (Market Force) polled more than 7,800 consumers. The participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with their last experience at a home improvement or furnishings store and their likelihood to recommend it to others. That data was averaged to rate each brand on an aggregation of the two measures – a composite loyalty Index.
 
Market Force also looked at the attributes that drive these preferences, analyzing factors such as merchandise and brand selection, cleanliness and value.
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