The country's biggest retailer is one of America's least favorite places to buy groceries.
Walmart (WMT) was ranked at the bottom of the pile in Consumer Reports' annual supermarket survey, tying with A&P and Waldbaum's. All three retailers earned 64 points, the lowest out of more than 60 supermarket chains that were ranked based on almost 63,000 responses to the magazine's survey.
The abysmal ratings for Walmart come at a time when the retailer is struggling with poor consumer perception and lagging sales, which have sent shares down 6 percent so far this year. Walmart is responding by putting pressure on suppliers to cut costs, hoping to regain consumers through low prices. But Consumer Reports notes that customers already score Walmart higher on price, while it's suffering in almost every other category, ranging from service to the quality of produce.
"This year, the nation's largest grocer--the primary shopping destination for 10 percent of those surveyed--earned low marks in every category other than price," the magazine noted. "Walmart Supercenter gets some of the lowest scores for freshness."
The survey is only for Walmart Supercenters and doesn't include the company's local Neighborhood Market chain, smaller stores that are primarily geared to selling groceries in urban centers.
Asked for comment, Walmart sent a remark that Chief Executive Doug McMillon made at an investors' meeting in October that acknowledges the retailer has room for improvement.
"Sometimes people ask me, 'What will it take to grow a business that's almost $500 billion?' In fact, one of you asked me that last night and my answer is, I don't know how to do that but every store I go in has room to improve," McMillon said. "I mean I can take you to stores right now and take our yellow pad and we can walk out of that store with a list of things that we can go do better. And if we nail those, one store at a time, our short-term performance gets better in Wal-Mart U.S."
The stores with the freshest produce tend to score the highest overall, Consumer Reports noted. Because Americans view food as "the new medicine," shoppers are seeking a wider variety of healthy, unprocessed grocery items, as well as organics and local produce, the magazine said.
The typical shopper makes 83 grocery trips per year, spending about $5,400 on food, the survey noted.
So, which supermarket rose to the top? That would be Wegmans, a chain that has developed a cult-like following, thanks to its product variety and service. In the Consumer Reports survey, Wegmans earned 90 points overall, tops in the group and received high marks for every aspect of the shopping experience, from cleanliness to selection of healthy items.
"Why can't all stores be like Wegmans?" the magazine asked.
A few supermarket rivals come close. The second most loved American supermarket is Publix, followed in third place by Trader Joe's, which has generated legions of fans for its quirky products and friendly service.