Walmart's motto is "Live Better, Save Money," but the retailer has lived through better weeks while trying to maintain its reputation as the best place for shoppers to save. A front-page story in the Wall Street Journal's Marketplace section today on a sex-discrimination suit eclipsed positive news of Walmart's plans to open many smaller Walmart Express stores and follow Best Buy and Sears with in-store pickup of online orders. And on Wednesday, a pair of studies detailed how Target was beating Walmart on the price front.
Life hasn't exactly been a bowl of cherries for Walmart in Consumer Reports' Ratings, either. The retailer finished second-to-last in our most recent satisfaction Ratings of America's top stores, based on surveys of more than 30,000 of our subscribers. Things are a bit better when it comes to our product-performance Ratings, especially among hot spring items like gas grills and lawn mowers. But smaller items it sells, including paint, coffee, and dishwasher and laundry detergent—which should fly off the shelves of its new Express stores—generally finished midpack in our tests. And many of the small appliances they sell came in at or near the bottom (Walmart finished last in overall satisfaction among small-appliance retailers in Consumer Reports' satisfaction survey).
Here are some picks—and pans—from Consumer Reports' latest tests:
- Gas grills: Two Walmart sells—the medium-sized Uniflame GBC1059WB, $250, the larger Brinkman 810-1575-W, $380—both delivered even heating and impressive low-temperature grilling in our tests. They're both Best Buys.
- Lawn mowers: Impressive handling, bagging, and ease of use helped the Brute BTXPV22700E, $350, make the cut into our group of Recommended lawn mowers. (Stay tuned for our latest tests of mowers, tractors, and riders online and on newsstands in early April.)
- Dehumidifiers: Frequent spring flooding has made these a hot item, so don't wait for summer to buy one. The $260 GE ADKW65LN dehumidifier Walmart sells scored excellent at water removal and very good at energy efficiency.
- Coffee and coffeemakers: Sam's Choice House Blend Medium Roast coffee and the GE 169209 drip coffemaker, $40, fell smack in the middle of our Ratings. The Sam's Choice Organic Blend Decaffeinated Medium Roast finished near the bottom of blended coffees.
- Laundry and dishwasher detergents: Walmart's Great Value 2X Ultra finished number 12 out of 33 among conventional laundry detergents we tested. Just fair performance at removing a caked-on puree of foods from dishes relegated Great Value powdered dishwashing detergent to a similar fate.
- Steam irons: A poor steaming rate kept the GE 169134, $25, near the bottom of the pack.
- Food processors: Poor pureeing performance doomed the GE 169203, $50, to a dead-last finish.
- Paints: Walmart's interior paints didn't fare very well in our most recent testing, where brands from Home Depot dominated. Walmart's Color Place Satin scored near the bottom among satin and eggshell finishes, second-to-last in flat and matte, and dead last among semigloss finishes.
And don't count Walmart out when the chips are down. Their Great Value potato chips managed to tie Lay's Classic potato chips in our head-to-head taste tests of store vs. national brands.
—Reporting by Gian Trotta