E-tailers, Specialty Chains Most 'Satisfying': Study

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ANN ARBOR, MICH. —

Online and specialty merchants outpaced the overall retail industry in delivering customer satisfaction, a new report shows, with Amazon besting them all.

The annual study by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which gauges the shopping experience on a 0 to 100 scale, shows that consumer satisfaction with retailers fell 0.5 percent to 75.3, the biggest drop in two years. Much of the decline was centered on gasoline service stations, reflecting the rising price of oil.

E-tail once again led the rankings with an ACSI score of 80. Amazon and Netflix swapped places for the lead in e-tail, with Amazon rising 1 percent to 87 and Neflix dropping 1 percent to 86. Newegg (down 2 percent to 84) and Overstock (up 1 percent to 83) earned the next highest scores.

Within brick-and-mortar, specialty retailers trended upward for a third straight year, rising 1.3 percent to 78. Barnes & Noble lead the channel for a fourth straight year, with a slight 2 percent drop to 82, followed closely by Borders (down 1 percent to 80), which last week filed Chapter 11. Best Buy rose 4 percent to 77, which was still below the sector average.

Among office-supply chains, Staples improved 5 percent and Office Depot vaulted 7 percent, both to all-time high ACSI scores of 81. A stronger emphasis on customer service and improved rewards programs helped lift both retailers. In contrast, OfficeMax retreated 4 percent to 74. Customers see value in OfficeMax prices, but gave low marks to service that failed to keep up with their expectations, ACSI said.

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