While diverse retailers Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) have their tentacles in just about everything you’d want to buy, there’s a reason people still show up to the likes of Office Depot (NYSE:ODP), Gap (NYSE:GAP) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY). These businesses, known as “specialty retailers,” cater to (as the name implies) a more specific need, usually offering a wider range of products within the genre and more customer service expertise.
And that’s why specialty retailers have a hallowed place as part of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which describes itself as “an economic indicator based on modeling of customer evaluations of the quality of goods and services purchased in the United States and produced by both domestic and foreign firms with substantial U.S. market shares.” In the ASCI’s report released this month, the segment’s 79 score for 2011 was second only to Internet retailers (81), and enjoyed its fourth consecutive year of improvement.
While the index says retailers’ specialization usually leads to more satisified customers, the top two companies on the list are broader-based warehouse retailers Costco (NASDAQ:COST, 83) and Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club (81). Of single-listed companies, Best Buy bottomed out the segment at 76 — though that score still equals or tops the average mark for grocers, gas stations and department stores. Here’s a look at how the rest of ASCI’s list breaks down:
|Ticker||2011 Score||Previous Year
|Barnes & Noble||BKS||79||-3.7%||-4.8%|
|Best Buy||BBY||77||No Change||+6.9%|
|All Others||NA||76||No Change||+5.6%|
– Kyle Woodley, InvestorPlace.com Assistant Editor