TECHNOLOGY

America’s favorite home furnishing retailers are…

BY Marianne Wilson

A wholesale club giant beats out specialty retailers to rank as the nation's favorite home furnishings retailer.

Costco Wholesale Corp. is ranks first among consumers when it comes to home furnishings, according to a study by Market Force Information. With a composite loyalty score of 72%, Costco earned the top spot. But Ikea was a close second, with a score of 70%.

Target (68%), T.J. Maxx (64%) and Kohl’s (63%) rounded out the top five. They were followed by two specialty retailers, Home Goods (62%) and Bed, Bath & Beyond (56%).

For the rankings, Market Force Information polled nearly 3,500 consumers, who were asked to rate their satisfaction with their last experience at a home 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.

Consumers said Ikea offers the most selection and at the best value, according to the study. Target scored the highest marks for customer service and speedy checkouts, and Costco ranked No. 1 for store associate availability.

In other findings:

• Seventeen percent of those studied said they have a home furnishings store-branded credit card. Of those, most use Kohl’s (55%), Target (43%) and Costco (29%). Very few have one for Ikea or Bed Bath & Beyond.

• Twenty-four percent indicated they participate in the loyalty program offered by the home furnishings retailer they most recently visited. Kohl’s had the highest participation at 61%, followed by Big Lots, Ikea and Costco.

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).

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TECHNOLOGY

Retail giant launches new services, tools for back-to-school

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Walmart is making it easier for parents to stay on their game during this year's back-to-school shopping season.

According to the National Retail Federation, this year's season is expected to be a strong one and start early. Walmart is rolling out new services to help shoppers easily find what they are looking for — in stores and online.

On the brick-and-mortar front, Walmart is touting “back-to-school” associates who will be ready to direct customers to open cash registers, find the shortest lines and grab any last-minute items before shoppers finish checking out.

Online, Walmart is launching a dedicated back-to-school destination – walmart.com/classroomsupplies – that features a section called TeacherLists, where teachers can upload supply lists. The tool enables shoppers to enter their zip code and pinpoint their individual classroom list or a general grade supplies list.

Currently, the site lists nearly 500,000 classroom lists. The number is expected to grow to more than a million by the end of August, representing a majority of schools and classrooms across the United States, according to Walmart.

The discounter said it also has "significantly" expanded the number of items that can be bought online and picked up in store, and made “hundreds” of back-to-school staples eligible for its Online Grocery Pickup shopping service. It also has doubled the number of items availa-ble for same-day pickup — an assortment that includes the top 400+ back-to-school items, the retailer said.

“We’re saving our customers time with easy ways to shop and multiple ways to get these items to students,” said Scott Bayles, VP of stationery, Walmart U.S.

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TECHNOLOGY

Things looking up at Target

BY Marianne Wilson

Target Corp. on Thursday surprised the industry and investors with some good news.

The discounter updated its guidance and said that as a result of improved traffic and sales trends through the first two months of the quarter, it expects to report a modest increase in its second quarter same-store sales. Target previously said it expected a decline.

"Following better-than-expected results in the first quarter, we’ve seen additional, broad-based improvement in traffic and category sales trends in the second quarter, despite continued challenges in the competitive environment," stated CEO Brian Cornell. “Our team is energized and focused on enhancing and modernizing the Target shopping experience, and our guests are responding."

Cornell said the company's launch of its nursery decor line, Cloud Island, in May was a success. Target will be rolling out four more exclusive brands across home and apparel during the coming months in support of its plan to launch 12 new brands by the end of 2018.

"We are also pleased with initial results of the Twin Cities rollout of Target Restock, providing next-day delivery of a shopping-cart-sized shipment from an assortment of more than 10,000 essential items," Cornell added.

In updating its guidance, Target said it now expects to report second quarter GAAP and adjusted EPS above the high end of its previous guidance range of $0.95 to $1.15.

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