What’s the Best Supermarket in America?

Discussion
Jan 10, 2013

For as much as people complain about grocery shopping, there are many who show the love for food stores that get it right. We’ve heard people speak in glowing terms when they discuss particular stores including Dorothy Lane Market, Gelson’s, Harris Teeter, H-E-B’s Central Market, Lunds, Mariano’s, Nugget Markets, Publix, Rouses, Wegmans, Whole Foods and others.

A case in point is Arielle Calderon. She really likes Publix. In fact, as she writes on the BuzzFeed site, it is about the only thing she misses since moving to New York City where, alas, there are no Publix stores.

Why does Ms. Calderon think Publix is "the best grocery store to ever exist"? Her list includes the chain’s sub sandwiches, cookies, chicken tenders, store cleanliness, private label products, BOGO deals and other reasons.

Not all agree with Ms. Calderon’s decision to place Publix on a pedestal. A piece in the Miami New Times takes Publix to task for "claustrophobia-inducing aisles" at one local store, along with poor seafood practices and other shortcomings.

But the point of this piece isn’t to focus on Publix. It’s to ask, what company really does run the best grocery store in the U.S.?

What company runs the best grocery stores in the U.S.? What makes it the best, in your opinion?

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28 Comments on "What’s the Best Supermarket in America?"


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Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Besides my own store of course, I would go with Wegmans, as they really know how to run a great store. Great selecion of quality produce, meats, deli, and bakery, plus an exceptional layout of grocery, HBA, and club packs. Great service, and they are not ashamed to make a profit. Bring your wallet, they will make you spend money when you walk in.

Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

My personal preference is Trader Joe’s. There’s something for everyone in terms of product and experience. With a staff that engages customers TJ’s creates a sense of caring about its shoppers’ needs. The quality of the produce and meat secure the sense of upscale purchases at a value price. Finally, they overtly try to make check out waiting as painless as possible. I’m a walking testimonial. Too bad I have to go out of my way to shop there.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
9 years 4 months ago

Wegmans — value, selection, freshness, specialty, unbelievable prepared foods (lunch crowds even in the suburbs are massive), local community focus, happy and well paid employees (at least for retail), and generally fast/short checkout lines. They have a strategy of controlled growth to get each local store right and that has allowed them to consistently deliver value to their customers and employees.

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Mariano’s in Chicago. Whole Foods/Wegmans experience with near Walmart pricing. Probably not sustainable, but enjoy it while it’s there.

Ben Sprecher
Guest
Ben Sprecher
9 years 4 months ago

“Best” is such a loaded term. “Best” for whom?

In terms of pure fanatical customer devotion, I think you can’t top Wegman’s. For consistently delivering exceptionally low prices on a near-full line of name brand and PL products, Demoulas/Market Basket in the northeast is exceptional (better even than Walmart). When it comes to using digital CRM and loyalty to deliver truly relevant value to each core shopper, Kroger leads the pack.

Perhaps most vexingly, “best” isn’t just different for different people, it’s different for each person at different times. But a grocery store that doesn’t decide to be best at ONE thing will usually be best at nothing.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
9 years 4 months ago
Over the last 3 years I have had the pleasure of personally visiting the headquarters and actual stores of over 30 national and regional supermarkets. No question, some of these grocers stand out as Best in Class for cleanliness, associate help, assortment, Private Label options and quality, fresh including meat and seafood departments. My favorite 5 are: Hy-Vee – Beautiful clean well run stores. Amazing butcher counter. Wegmans – High quality Private Label, clean stores Meijer – Wonderful assortment. Helpful associates and strong easy to understand promotions Harris-Teeter – Clean store, easy to shop wonderful unique items Stew Leonard’s – Amazing dairy and fresh seafood and butcher counters. (only because of the limited assortment do they rank 5th) Others including Ahold, Kroger, Whole Foods and Publix certainly make the top ten, but the top five really have some special features that separate them from the pack. Trader Joe’s does not make the list because they lack a fresh meat and seafood counter. If that was not part of the criteria they would certainly make the… Read more »
David Zahn
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

While not voting on the topic or providing an opinion, I do want to offer up a couple of ideas:

  1. Don’t we “love” when a shopper refers to the supermarket as “MY store” as in “MY Wegmans or MY Stop & Shop, etc.?” That is the real holy grail!
  2. These discussions are always fun to have—who was the best centerfielder? Is “Let it Be” a better song than “Stairway to Heaven?” Morton’s vs. Ruth’s Chris? Etc. Not sure which way I would vote on retailers/grocers—having lived in Western NY for a time, I adored Wegmans, now living in CT, I make trips to Stew Leonard’s like it is Mecca, and have worked on consulting projects for others listed in John B’s post—so I can say that there are actually a LOT of retailers worth celebrating (although we tend to focus on the “doom and gloom” and problems of the industry—this discussion points to how much there is that is being done well).
Ron Margulis
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

In no particular order, here are my top seven:

  • Wegmans
  • Stew Leonard’s
  • H-E-B
  • Fairway
  • ShopRite (Disclosure – my father and grandfather were members of Wakefern for more than 30 years)
  • Raley’s
  • Publix

Why? In each case, it’s a different answer. For Wegmans, it’s assortment and customer service. Stew Leonard’s and Fairway both have fantastic fresh foods. H-E-B and Raley’s are great at customer service. ShopRite, Publix and H-E-B have consistently great prices, great assortment and attractive merchandising. A few things they all have—clean stores, great use of technology to ease the shopping process and well-trained staff members. This last point can’t be over-emphasized.

By the way, I really like Loblaw’s Real Canadian Superstore and Metro Plus stores up north.

Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

With all these endorsements, I’ve just put Wegmans on my bucket list.

Gregg London
Guest
Gregg London
9 years 4 months ago

Most of the responses so far have been from the East Coast, as evidenced by the stores named. Living in Texas, I’m going to say that Central Market (the “higher end” of H-E-B in San Antonio) is one of the best. They have FRESH “everything.” Kroger always ranks high, because they are using the Dallas Metroplex to “experiment” with new store concepts. One such store actually has a small appliance section, along with a salsa bar (Texas, go figure). As for Trader Joe’s, contrary to what John Boccuzzi, Jr. said, our Trader Joe’s (new Store in Plano), DOES have a FRESH meat and seafood counter.

Of course, like others have pointed out, BEST is what’s “best” for you.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Assuming all elements of longevity and size are out of the mix and that this assessment is based strictly on “if I walk into the store today”—Mariano’s has to be a very strong contender. At least Top 5. They are the first grocery retailer to “get” that most consumers who want a Whole Foods perimeter experience also want a high value traditional center store experience—not a health food store. I hope they have the capital to expand.

Tom Edwards
Guest
Tom Edwards
9 years 4 months ago

Wegmans … selection and service levels excel, prices are acceptable.

Raymond D. Jones
Guest
Raymond D. Jones
9 years 4 months ago

Retail Leader, the GMA publication, recently addressed this question taking a “worldwide” viewpoint. I contributed to the article along with a number of other industry observers.

Read the article here….

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Visiting Tony’s store is still on my Bucket List. Until then my personal destination store is Trader Joe’s where I love dropping in even if I don’t need anything. But locally here in AZ we have “AJ’s” where I take Canadian visitors right after I take them to Sedona. You go there if you want cheese made from grass-fed Himalayan Lama’s milk. It is a remarkable place…but easily twice the cost of a Safeway.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

My first choice is Tony Orlando’s Tony O’s Supermarket & Catering. Hands down. My second choice is a tie among Publix, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans. The customer service at all is outstanding and consistent.

Carlos Arámbula
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Any opinion will be very subjective. Urban vs suburban, brand names vs store brands, discount vs premium. Maybe the question should be, what grocery store offers the best customer experience regardless of format?

Michael Vanin
Guest
Michael Vanin
9 years 4 months ago

The best grocery stores in the US are those that have found a viable replacement for their plastic shopping bags….

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

There are a myriad of great grocery stores in the USA, but they all share one thing in common…excellent customer service. From TJ’s to Gelsons, to Whole Foods, any customer will tell you it is the way they are treated, from the time that they enter the store to the time that they leave, that makes the store great. Pricing is not always the lowest, and selection may not be as good in one area as another. However, customer service, in all of the forms that it takes, is always excellent.

Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 4 months ago
Have to go along with Tony O on his choice of Wegmans (sorry, I haven’t had the pleasure of Tony’s shopping experience). My voice is not based solely on my opinion, however, it’s based on the Net Promoter Score that consumers provide to their retailers across the country. BIGinsight provides an NPS for 52 different Retail grocers across the country. And, consumers do appreciate their grocers—overall, the average grocer receives an NPS of 32.0%. That makes the grocery category the highest of any retail group. Wegmans enjoys an NPS of 66.2%—a figure that rivals Apple’s generous support from their followers. Kroger, Publix (59.1% NPS), and Trader Joe’s are the other leading players. All stand out in their own customers’ minds for price, selection, location, quality, and service—with 55% of each store’s shoppers calling them out as the primary reason they shop there most often. Wegmans takes it a step higher, as they consistently receive double digit mentions for categories like wide aisles, unique products, store layout, store appearance, trustworthy retailer, knowledgeable employees, one-stop shopping, bakery,… Read more »
W. Frank Dell II, CMC
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

The best is in the eyes of the beholder. I view this from all the stores I have visited over the years. I don’t know if I can name just one. There is a group that gets it right. This includes selection, decor, human interface, promotions, and price. The two with the most loyal following are Publix and Wegmans. Those with strong appeal include Hannaford, Schnuck’s, Harris Teeter and H-E-B.

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
9 years 4 months ago

Agree with earlier panelists that Wegmans is right up there near the top of the list.

I’d like to point out an often over-looked group of grocers that can be outstanding: the co-ops. PCC here in the Seattle area offers a great assortment in fresh and bright stores and offers all sorts of extras like free fruit for your kid everytime you come in, scrip programs for local schools and a great roster of cooking classes. Plus, shoopers know that the profits stay in the community and go to things like the Farmland Trust that is saving family farms from development.

Dave Nixon
Guest
Dave Nixon
9 years 4 months ago

Dorothy Lane Market—local market that strives to be different, sell the most unique offerings and provide the highest levels of customer service, even from its teens that work there. They expect nothing short of excellence. From a shopping experience perspective, it is the best I have ever seen.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Trader Joe’s, without question is the best!

Mark Burr
Guest
9 years 4 months ago
I’d have to go along with the response of “Best for whom?” Like most anythingm it is location, location, location. Or, just like politics—”All politics are local.” Sure, what are the best in the U.S. are all covered in many of the comments, but few if any of those mentioned have a broad national penetration. For those near Tony’s in Ohio, you bet it’s probably the best. Yet, if I was in the Dayton, OH area, I’d be saying the same about Dorothy Lane. Moreover, most consumers today are not shopping just one grocer or one retailer for food. The shopping experience and variety stores offer makes them the choice for consumers for different products. One of the more intriguing factors in today’s food shopping evolution is that “grocery” or “supermarkets” have lost and continue to lose basket size or the total of the consumers food dollars. Why is that? Consumers today are shopping many sources and for many reasons. So, what makes these multiple choices the best option for the consumer? In our own… Read more »
Justin Time
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

As some of the posts suggest, it all depends. If you’ve lived without a neighborhood supermarket for several years and get one, then that new replacement supermarket is the best. If it’s all about price, value, and fresh produce in a small footprint, then the top five EDLP formats would be Aldi, Bottom Dollar, Price Rite, Good Cents and not for much longer, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

Steve Arens
Guest
Steve Arens
9 years 4 months ago

Wegmans – Great product selection (though my wife thinks they are going too heavy on PL at the expense of brands she prefers), knowledgeable/customer-focused staff in fresh departments, creative “meal solutions” and a smart user of loyalty card data for marketing/communicating to their customers.

Mike B
Guest
Mike B
9 years 4 months ago
Wegmans is a great store. They draw people from crazy distances and until I visited a few locations I had no idea why. When I went about 30 miles out of my way on the last day of my trip east to have one last visit, well, yeah. Most people I know will typically make their shopping decision based on location and/or price. And then it comes down to finding what they need, and being happy with the quality of the goods purchased. Some chains do a particularly bad job on price, quality, mix, in-stock, and freshness, mostly smaller regionals that are obviously just gasping for life, or some larger regionals like Save Mart, and as a result you see people driving past those to get to some other store even if is the most convenient location. The best grocer is the one that uses its scope and scale to try to understand what is important to the customer and its needs. And the grocer that understands a customer in different neighborhoods, perhaps even in… Read more »
William Passodelis
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Overall, I MUST say that the BEST Grocer in America—hands down—IS Publix. There are many great grocers: Kroger, Whole Foods, Wegmans, but when you consider EVERYTHING all wrapped up in one package, there is NO competition. Publix is SUPERB. Clean, nice layouts, CLEAN bright immaculate stores, Incredible specialty offerings considering store size and scope, wonderful special services, GREAT private label offerings. great sale offerings, terrific meat departments and deli, great fresh produce, wide SELECTION on everything…all topped off by a staff that is generally friendly and fairly happy, AND happy to help you!!! There IS NO other choice—Publix—where shopping TRULY is a pleasure!

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