New England

New Englanders Love Market Basket So Much They Made It #3 Grocery Chain in U.S.

This year's Retailer Preference Index Report, a survey put out by dunnhumby, named Market Basket, which only has stores in New England, the No. 3 grocery chain in the United States

NBC Universal, Inc.

After a survey last month named Market Basket the No. 3 grocer in the U.S., NBC10 Boston is looking at what makes the New England supermarket chain so special.

The ranking comes as no surprise to customer Fred Van Magness of Reading, Massachusetts. A few weeks ago, he emailed the company to tell them what he thinks they are doing right.

"Sometimes, I think it's nice if people are doing a good job to actually hear that from the customer," said Van Magness. "And as a result of that, I decided to pen that note, a brief note to Market Basket, just to express my appreciation for what I see their employees do day in and day out to support the customer."

Van Magness and his wife have been shopping at Market Basket stores for about 40 years and they love the value and service.

"When you're there, it's always the customer first, whether it's in the checkout line, making sure there are people there to bag your groceries, or answer your questions," said Van Magness.

It's that customer loyalty that has landed Market Basket in the top three of grocery chains in the country. It surpassed more than 50 others grocers, including Trader Joe's, Wegmans, Walmart and Costco. The survey highlights the company's continued excellence on pricing, operations and speed.

"They're great on price, really consistent on that. They manage their prices really well, stay really good and competitive. That is still the most important thing for shoppers, and it's been driving Market Basket's performance," said Grant Steadman, North American president for dunnhumby, the British customer data science company that conducted the survey.

The company's fifth annual Retailer Preference Index Report surveyed 10,000 households and ranked retailers on financial performance and customers' emotional connection.

"Customers talk a lot about trusting the store … They talk about the bonds they feel with the staff, they talk about whether they would be sad if they closed," said Steadman. "These kinds of aspects are very important and a huge driver of the model and retailer's performance overall. And different retailers score highly on those depending on that level of connection, and Market Basket, in particular, is extremely high, probably the highest of all the retailers nationally on that emotional connection score."

David McLean started bagging groceries in high school at Market Basket. He's now the operations manager and has been with the company for 46 years. NBC10 Boston asked him what he thinks is the secret of Market Basket's success.

"I think it's respect," he said. "Respect both ways. I think the customers that come in see how hard people work to put the product on the shelf, take care of them at the registers … and likewise, we see our customers having our back, and, as we know, they were there for us when we needed them most."

McLean is referring to the summer of 2014, when Market Basket employees were joined by store customers in protest after President and CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was fired by the company's board of directors. It was a story of loyalty that made national headlines, and ended with Demoulas eventually being reinstated.

"I think the survey complements what happened," said McLean. "We have a slogan, 'More For Your Dollar,' and it's not just price. It's the quality, it's the respect of the consumer, it's the cleanliness. It's the attitude you bring to work, to take care of the customer and understanding before that dollar goes into your paycheck, it came out of a person's purse or pocketbook or wallet. And people have earned that money, and without them, we don't exist."

Digital grocery sales more than doubled during the pandemic. Market Basket did well despite the fact it doesn't have a digital offering.

Steadman says the future challenge ahead for the company is moving into e-commerce without compromising on their prices and in-store experience.

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