In the derby to please shoppers, stores like Nordstrom and Target continue to trounce their competition. But overall, online retailers continue to gain, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), indicating that many consumers find shopping online much more pleasing than hoofing it through an actual store: The ACSI, founded at the University of Michigan and based in Ann Arbor, says its index for e-tailers gained a percentage point to 83 (out of a possible 100) compared to offline retailers, which gained a percentage point to 76.
Overall, consumer satisfaction remains relatively strong, despite the weak economy, and the ACSI says it "remains much higher than it was prior to the recession and also slightly higher than this time one year ago."
In the online group, Netflix jumped 2 percentage points to 87 -- dethroning Amazon, at 86. Newegg fell a bit to 86, while eBay remained at 79.
"Overall, online shopping continues to grow and provide higher levels of customer satisfaction," says Professor Claes Fornell, head of the ACSI, in its release. "Free shipping promotions, competitive pricing, and the ability to browse and research an ever wider selection of merchandise from the comfort of one's home have made online retailing a very attractive and powerful alternative to traditional stores."
Among brick-and-mortar stores, Nordstrom -- with a score of 83 -- continues to outperform its department-store competition, including Kohl's (79). JC Penney (79), Dillard's (78), and Sears (74.) And while others gained a bit in the group, Macy's, which eliminated more than 7,000 jobs last year, was the lone decliner, with its score falling to 71. Of the discounters, Target -- with an 82 -- soared above Wal-Mart Stores, with a well-below-average of 71.
Barnes & Noble, with an 84, beat Borders, at 81. Costco, with 81, outperformed Wal-Mart's Sam's Club, at 79. Publix continues to lead among supermarkets. And office stores gained somewhat, with OfficeMax climbing 4% to tie Staples, with a 77. And while Home Depot gained 3% to 72, it still continues to lag Lowe's, which climbed to a 79.
"As long as unemployment remains high and credit tight, it is difficult to see how we can get to a sustainable pace of consumer spending growth," Fornell writes. "But it is not all bad: the 'will to spend' is evidenced by high customer satisfaction. The issue is whether or not consumers have the 'means to spend.' The recent news about the decline in unemployment and the rise in manufacturing hiring may not only lead to more people working, but may also dampen the fear of job loss. If so, the means to spend will face less of a hurdle."