New Market Force Information Study Reveals America’s Favorite Home Improvement and Home Furnishings Retailers

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Ace Hardware and Costco Take Top Honors

A new nationwide study by Market Force Information, a worldwide leader in customer experience management, reveals that Ace Hardware is consumers’ favorite home improvement store and Costco is their favorite for home furnishings.

For the rankings, Market Force Information (Market Force) polled more than 7,800 consumers for the home improvement component of the study and nearly 3,500 for the home furnishings component. 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.

Home Improvement Retailer Rankings
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%. Menards ranked second with 60%, Lowe’s was third with 55% and Home Depot was last among the brands studied with 51%. [See Graph 1].

Spending and Projects on Rise
Rising home equity is driving an increase in home improvement spending, which was up more than 30% in April over last year – the strongest advance since January 2000, according to analysis of Census Bureau data by Bloomberg. The do-it-yourself phenomenon may be partly responsible for the rise in home improvement spending. Market Force’s research found 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.”

Easiest to Find Items at Ace, But Menards Leads in Selection
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. [See Graph 2].

Taking Stock of Apps, Loyalty Programs and Store Credit Cards
Market Force’s study found there is ample room for retailers to promote adoption of their mobile apps, as they prove helpful among those who use them. Of the 18% who indicated they’ve used one, 93% of them said the app was helpful. Home Depot’s app is most popular, with 45% using it, followed by Lowe’s, Walmart, IKEA and Menards. [See Graph 3].

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%. [See Graph 3].

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. [See Graph 3].

Home Furnishings Retailer Rankings
Market Force also explored consumer trends and preferences in the home furnishings sector. This section of the study revealed that Costco ranks first among home furnishing retailers, with a composite loyalty score of 72%. IKEA was a close second with 70%, and Target, T.J. Maxx and Kohl’s rounded out the top five. [See Graph 4].

IKEA Is Value Leader, Target Tops for Service
When it comes to home furnishings, IKEA offers the most selection and at the best value. In fact, IKEA outperformed second-place Bed Bath & Beyond by 11 percentage points in the merchandise variety category. However, Target scored the highest marks for customer service and speedy checkouts, and Costco ranked No. 1 for store associate availability. [See Graph 5].

Apps, Loyalty Programs and Credit Cards for Home Furnishings
Mobile app usage for home furnishings retailers is similar to that in the home improvement sector, with 16% indicating they have used one, and 95% saying it was helpful. IKEA has the highest adoption at 22%, followed by Target and Walmart.

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.

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.

Survey Demographics
The survey was conducted online in May 2017 across the United States. The pool of 7,815 consumers (for the home improvement portion of the study) and 3,467 consumers (for the home furnishings portion) represented a cross-section of the four U.S. Census regions and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 51% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 74% were female, 25% were male and 1% preferred not to answer.

About Market Force Information
Market Force Information® provides location-level measurement solutions that help businesses protect their brand reputation, delight customers and make more money. Solutions include customer experience surveys, mystery shopping, on-site audits, contact center customer recovery services and social media monitoring with all measurement data integrated into one technology and analytics platform. Founded in 2005, Market Force has a growing global presence, with offices in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Spain. It serves over 350 clients that operate multi-location businesses, including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions and entertainment. More information can be found at http://www.marketforce.com.

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Sarah Sparks
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