April 20, 2014

Best Stores for Buying Appliances

When you’re shopping for a new appliance, you want a store that will provide good prices, helpful staff and ease of service along with a good selection.

Unfortunately, two surveys from the Consumer Reports National Research Center show that no one retailer seems able to provide it all.

CR did find some cause for hope. Abt Electronics, in the Chicago area, and independent local stores garnered high praise from shoppers who bought a major appliance in the past year. For small appliances, independents also rated highly, along with Costco, though the standout was Amazon.com, as in past years.

CR’s rankings for shopper satisfaction came from more than 21,000 respondents to its 2009 Appliance Shopper Satisfaction Survey. It also commissioned a separate, nationally representative Home Gripes survey of 1,405 homeowners about their experiences shopping at home stores.

Only Abt Electronics scored better than average on price for major appliances. For small appliances, Amazon.com and Costco got readers’ highest marks for price for the second year in a row.

Here’s more from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Consumer Reports:

Besides price, the expertise and manner of a store’s sales staff were key reasons for choosing a major appliance retailer, according to the CR Shopper Satisfaction Survey. But respondents to the Home Gripes survey cited difficulty in finding a useful salesperson at all as one of their chief shopping annoyances. Salespeople who were arrogant or even nasty were especially bothersome for women.

Independent retailers, Abt Electronics and Pacific Sales in California received top marks for having salespeople knowledgeable in major appliances. The trio also stood out for service rendered; Best Buy scored below average for its staff. For staff expertise and service in small appliances, independent local retailers scored best. Among major retailers, only Lowe’s stood out; and for service, Sears scored above average.

Around a quarter of major- and small-appliance shoppers chose retailers based on their reputation for high-quality products. Retailers varied significantly on both counts. Poor selection was a complaint for less than 5 percent of respondents to CR’s Shopper Satisfaction survey. But almost a quarter of small-appliance shoppers at Sam’s Club complained that the store had too few brands or models available for selection. For major appliances, no store scored better than average for shopping ease.

For major-appliance product quality and selection, Abt Electronics and Pacific Sales scored best; for selection, Home Depot scored below average. For small-appliance purchasing, Amazon.com and independents stood out for quality and selection. Shopping for small appliances in stores was more varied, with independent retailers getting top marks for shopping ease, followed by Sears, Lowe’s and Best Buy, which all scored above average.

Stores that push extended warranties were among the top annoyances in CR’s Home Gripes survey. In the Shopper Satisfaction Survey, respondents who bought a major appliance were much more likely than those buying small appliances to be hit with an extended-warranty offer.

For small appliances, Amazon.com’s storage of shipping addresses and payment preferences might have contributed to its high score for checkout ease in the Shopper Satisfaction Survey. Independent retailers also received top marks, followed by Costco. For major appliances, no retailer scored worse than average. But Abt Electronics and independents fared best.

Consumers Seeking High Efficiency Laundry

Green is the new black when it comes to the laundry room, yet many consumers do not realize they have a choice when it comes to high-efficiency (HE), eco-friendly laundry appliances. A recent survey commissioned by Whirlpool Corporation revealed that while nearly 60 percent understand what HE means in regards to laundry appliances, almost 40 percent believe that top-load washers use more energy than front-loading machines – a common misconception in today’s marketplace.
Traditionally, consumers seeking high efficiency laundry turn to front-loading machines, yet according to previous Whirlpool research nearly three quarters of American households still own top-load washing machines. In fact, 44 percent of consumers in the most recent survey said they did not know if top-load washers use more energy than front-loaders and 38 percent believe that they do, indicating a need for clarity when it comes to communicating the benefits of HE machines to appliance shoppers.
“Historically, front-load laundry pairs have led the industry in capacity and efficiency,” said Mary Zeitler, home economist, Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science, “but manufacturers like Whirlpool Corporation are working to offer superior energy and water savings in models to suit consumers’ needs and preferences. As more families look to save on energy, water and utility costs, it is important to understand that HE washers, whether in a top-load or front-load configuration, can deliver unmatched efficiency, saving time and money in the laundry room.”
And while overall consumer demand for eco-friendly products is generally high, understanding HE in terms of laundry and the configurations in which it is available varies. For example, consumers aged 18-44 said an HE washer would be a “must have” in their dream laundry room, while consumers aged 45+ said their “must have” would be a washer and dryer that are more ergonomically friendly.
Additionally, consumers who are married or were married appear to understand eco-efficient products, more so than their single/never married counterparts. In fact, 61 percent of married and 64 percent of previously married consumers said they understand what HE means in terms of laundry appliances – while only 51 percent of single/never married consumers said the same.