Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Kroger registers average with public

By John Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. considers itself one of the leading supermarket chains in the nation. Readers of Consumer Reports magazine think otherwise.

Kroger stores rated No. 27 out of 46 grocery chains rated by the magazine's readers. That puts it behind Meijer (No. 8) and dreaded competitor Wal-Mart (No. 25), but ahead of Thriftway's parent company, Winn-Dixie (No. 42). Another local competitor, Bigg's, was not rated.

The ratings are based on responses from 25,000 Consumer Reports subscribers in the unscientific survey. Each grocer was rated for prices, checkout speed, service and cleanliness on a five-point scale. Kroger was rated average on all four measures.

Kroger Co. owns six of the chains rated in the survey. The highest rated was King Soopers (No. 13), and the lowest was Smith's Food & Drug (No. 40).

The ratings reflect readers' experiences in 2001 and early 2002. Kroger spokesman Gary Rhodes stressed that the company has pushed through many changes recently. "We've sharpened our focus on customer service the past year or two," he said. The company's stores have added self-checkout lanes and lowered prices on hundreds of items.

Meijer was the only chain in the Tristate rated in the top 10. The top three were Raley's of West Sacramento, Calif.; Wegmans of Rochester, N.Y.; and Publix of Lakeland, Fla. Wal-Mart was rated best based on prices alone.

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