The following is from the Nov. 11, 2007, edition of The Dallas Morning News. SMU Marketing Professor Ed Fox provided expert commentary for this story.

How major DFW grocery chains stack up

The Dallas Morning News

The walls are lined with the meat, produce, dairy, bakery and deli departments. Pharmacy is with health and beauty. Floral is right by the door. The soda aisle is always near the salty snacks. Cereal boxes are lined up as far as the eye can see.

It's such a familiar, dependable and organized place, your neighborhood grocery store. Yet many shoppers vehemently prefer one over another. A loyal shopper will tell you that grocery stores aren't the same at all.

To confirm that suspicion, The Dallas Morning News sent out a team of secret shoppers to find which neighborhood grocery chain has the lowest prices, the best service, the most selection and the shortest checkout lines.

The survey rated four chains Kroger, Tom Thumb, Albertson's and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on those four attributes. How did they stack up? Interestingly, each chain achieved the high score in one of the four categories. Wal-Mart had the lowest prices. Tom Thumb had the best customer service. Albertson's had the shortest lines. Kroger had the best selection.

But overall in our study, Kroger finished first, thanks to its second-place finish in the other three categories.

Ed Fox, a marketing professor at Southern Methodist University who has conducted grocery studies of his own and helped develop The News' study, said the results were pretty clear-cut.

"Across the board, you can't go wrong with Kroger," he said. "But really it depends on what quality service means to you.

"If that means delivering value and low prices, then Wal-Mart's the store for you. If responsiveness to the customer and customer service is important, then Tom Thumb's ahead. If quick checkout matters most, then Albertson's is for you. And if you value product selection most, then you should go to Kroger."

The results closely match the grocery chains' local market share.

Read the full story.

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