J.D. Power study: Ace is the place for customer satisfaction

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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For the 13th time in 14 years, Ace Hardware ranked highest in J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction study, followed by Menards and Lowe’s.

The hardware cooperative has more than 4,800 locally owned stores across the country and with some international locations. Private brands do play a large role for the company, registering nearly $5 billion in sales for Ace.

The “2020 U.S. Home Improvement Retailer Satisfaction Study” examines retailers based on merchandise, price, sales and promotions, staff and service, and store facility. The study fielded more than 2,600 responses in early 2020 from customers who purchased home improvement-related products from a home improvement retailer within the previous 12 months.

“The one-on-one engagement a customer has with the retail staff continues to be the largest driver of overall customer satisfaction with home improvement retailers,” said Christina Cooley, director of the @Home practice at J.D. Power. “Now, more than ever, customers are looking for the guidance they need — but they’re also looking to get in and out of the store quickly. When customers receive speedy, knowledgeable and friendly service, they are more likely to return and recommend that retailer. However, if they must wait five minutes or more to receive help, satisfaction scores tumble.”

The study didn’t specifically look at how customers rank a retailer’s private brand products, but a representative at J.D. Power said there should be some coverage in the redesigned study next year. 

J.D. Power has covered private brands in other recent studies, and the products actually didn’t fare very well. For example:

  • The Lowe’s ReliaBilt brand was profiled in the Window Satisfaction Study last August and performed toward the bottom of the Window Satisfaction Ranking, coming in 13th out of 14 brands ranked; 
  • Home Depot, and its Hampton Bay line, was last in a Cabinet Satisfaction Study last August. In the 2019 study, the brand ranked, eighth of 8. However, IKEA ranked highest in the study with its own brand of cabinets; and 
  • Ace Hardware, with Royal and Clark + Kensington, haven’t been included in the 2019 or 2020 studies for paint brands, but in 2018 came in below the study average. Clark + Kensington was sixth out of 10 and Royal was eighth out of 10. 

Some interesting findings in the 2020 customer satisfaction study were that customers who research online before making a purchase, spend $500 more per year on home improvement than those who do not research online. These shoppers are often more price-sensitive and are more likely to buy during a promotion or sale, too, the report found.

Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has jolted some home improvement projects. Based on additional J.D. Power research conducted April 2-3 of this year, 49% of U.S. consumers said they were considering a home improvement project within the next three months. Of those, 61% said they planned to do the project themselves. The top projects on the wish list included painting (15%), lawn and landscape projects (14%) and starting a garden (12%).