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× Tops With Public: Consumer Reports

Yonkers, N.Y. — Consumers are more satisfied with online retail venues than brick-and-mortar alternatives when it comes to purchasing consumer electronics, according to a recent survey of nearly 20,000 consumers performed by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The survey tracked 29 different Web and brick-and-mortar retailers with an overall reader score based on responses in the following categories: selection, product quality, price, quality of Web site, customer support, checkout speed and service as they applied to each company. Scores in each category fell along a scale from worst to best. The company’s return policy was also a factor. led the list of online retailers favored by the survey’s participants. The company received an overall reader score of 94 that was bolstered by top marks in selection, Web site quality and customer support. The retailer, which incidentally was also named Best Consumer Direct Dealer in TWICE’s 2006 Excellence in Retailing Awards, also received a better-than-average rating for its product quality, but only an average score for its pricing. Among Internet retailers, Crutchfield was immediately followed by,,, and more. Of the nine internet retailers mentioned in the survey, received the lowest reader score, 83, with an “average” rating for selection, product quality and price and the worst possible rating for its customer support and site quality.

The survey also found that local independent stores are the favorites for consumers among “walk-in” or brick-and-mortar stores, beating out all of the major chains featured in the survey. Local independents received the highest reader score, 89, because of their best-possible rating in areas like checkout speed, and service and their better-than-average scores for product selection and quality even though their pricing score was on the lower end of the scale.

Conversely, Costco followed next on the walk-in list with a score of 88 which appears to be based entirely on its pricing as that was the only area where it received the best designation. In fact, Costco’s scores were on the lowest point of the scale for selection, checkout speed and service and it received only an average score for its product quality.

Costco was immediately followed by Ritz Camera, Tweeter, Ultimate Electronics, H.H. Gregg and BJ’s Wholesale.

Wal-Mart came in second-to-last of the walk-in retailers included in the survey. It received a reader score of 78 and was awarded the worst-possible designation for selection, product quality, checkout speed and service. It’s only positive attribute appeared to be in its pricing, however even in this case the company still only received a better-than-average rating.

CompUSA was the lowest-scoring walk-in retailer featured in the survey’s results. It had a reader score of 77. The CompUSA site’s best attribute appears to be its average product quality. It received lower-than-average scores in selection, price, checkout speed and service.

In addition to rating specific electronic stores and e-retailers, Consumer Reports also asked it’s readers to rate their overall happiness on a scale of one to 100 when purchasing specific product categories online or in-store. Overall, readers gave an average score of 89 to their online shopping experiences and in-store shoppers gave an average of 81 for their happiness. The happiness ratings for customers who purchased products in-store were consistently lower in every category when compared to their online counterpart. The widest differences appeared in the camcorders and the hard-disk recorder or digital-video recorder categories, where each received an online reader score 11 points higher than its in-store reader score. Digital cameras scored the highest overall with an online reader score of 91; its in-store reader score was 83. The highest in-store reader score, 85, was in the rear projection TV category which received an 89 online. The smallest gap between online and in-store happiness was found in the flat-panel LCD or plasma TV category which received a score of 87 online and an 84 in-store.

The complete results of the survey can be found in the December 2006 issue of Consumer Reports or online at