J.D. Power rankings: a tie at the top

In an annual contest of customer-service bragging rights, Ace Hardware and True Value came out on top of the latest J.D. Power 2019 Home Improvement Retailer Satisfaction Study.

The study, based on responses from 2,433 consumers who have purchased home improvement products or services during the past 12 months, gave overall satisfaction index scores of 840 each to Ace and True Value.

Lowe’s and Menards followed with 834 and 833 index scores – on a 1,000 point scale. And Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer that generated $26.4 billion in first-quarter sales and $2.5 billion in net income, received an index below the study average.

The study measures customer satisfaction with home improvement retailers by examining five factors: merchandise; price; sales and promotions; staff and service; and store facility

The study also took the pulse of the American home improvement shopper, and determined that brick-and-mortar home improvement retailers must invest in their websites and web presence to succeed.

J.D. Power’s findings on the state of home improvement retailing include:

  • Web becomes critical conduit to in-store sales: Among all home improvement retailer customers, 41% say they have either researched or shopped online prior to visiting a store. What's more, customers who shop or research online prior to visiting a retail location spend an average of $620 more per year than those who just visit the store.

  • Retailer websites could learn from social sharing sites: While home improvement retailer websites are the most popular sources of information for online shoppers, overall satisfaction for those who visit a home improvement retailer website is 821 (on a 1,000-point scale), which is lower than those who visit manufacturer websites (832), image and video sharing websites (843) or social networking sites (869).

  • Yes, you may help me with something: Two minutes is the maximum amount of time for home improvement retailers to provide assistance to customers. When that threshold is met, there is an increase of 67 points on overall customer satisfaction. However, retailers are providing assistance within two minutes for just 26% of customers, a decline of two percentage points from last year's study.

  • Wide variability in staff knowledge: One of the key differentiators among top-performing retailers is the ability of the staff to consistently and thoroughly explain product features. Ace Hardware and True Value both performed significantly above the study average in this key performance indicator.

The rankings jostled again this year as Ace and True Value supplanted Menards at the top of the list. Menards, the Midwest big box retailer whose large stores weigh in at more than 200,000 sq. ft., rose to the top in the 2018 rankings after an 11-year run by Ace.

True Value celebrated the 2019 rankings as a sign that many recent initiatives are working. Those include its emphasis on localized digital marketing and a major transformation – its April 2018 sale to ACON Investments -- that unlocked equity for the individual retailer.

“Recognition from J.D. Power is further validation that our retailers are staying ahead of the curve in a fast changing retail landscape, capitalizing on a nationally recognized brand with relevant, localized promotions and marketing and winning where it matters most, with customers,” said John Hartmann, True Value president and CEO. “True Value Company has been making substantial investments to support our retailers including returning over $250 million of equity to invest as they know best in their business. Clearly their investments are paying off.”

Ace Hardware also celebrated the news of its position at the top of the list -- for the 12th time in the past 13 years.

In a press release, Ace President and CEO John Venhuizen called the top ranking a tremendous honor. "We are humbled to receive this award which reflects our Ace owners' passion for their neighbors and the outstanding service they and their red-vested heroes seek to provide every customer, every time,” he said.