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Study: Consumers can’t get satisfaction

BY Dan Berthiaume

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It probably takes less to satisfy the average consumer than it does to satisfy Mick Jagger, but even still, consumers can’t seem to get any satisfaction these days. According to new data from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the national level of customer satisfaction dropped 0.5% to 75.2 in fourth quarter 2014.

This is the fourth consecutive quarterly decline in customer satisfaction for the country as a whole, forecasting weak economic growth for 2015. The last time the economy grew by 4% was in the late '90s, when consumer spending increased by more than 5% per year. But in 2014, consumer spending increased by just 2.5% and GDP grew by 2.3%. Given that consumers represent about 70% of GDP, the economy cannot expand much without greater consumer demand.   

The ACSI, which measures the quality of economic output from the perspective of the consumer, shows that it may be difficult for demand to grow. According to the ACSI, deteriorating customer satisfaction shifts the demand curve downward, reducing consumer spending growth.

With overall U.S. customer satisfaction steadily deteriorating, there is little incentive for customers to increase consumption. The ACSI says that weak consumer spending, low inflation, prolonged low interest rates, declining satisfaction and a global slowdown are rarely associated with economic growth.

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Fresh & Easy to close 55 stores

BY Marianne Wilson

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy plans to close 55 stores, which would leave the chain with about 110 locations, the Orange Country Register reported.

Fresh & Easy is owned by the Yucaipa Cos., which bought the supermarket chain out of bankruptcy in 2013 from U.K. retailer Tesco. It operates stores in Nevada, California and Arizona.

The stores slated for closing do not meet Fresh & Easy’s new model of “modern convenience.”

"This move allows the company to redeploy capital into development and growth, including a 3,000 to 5,000 square foot store to provide a higher level of convenience and greater density,"  Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said in the report.

In a company statement, Wonnacott said Fresh & Easy is working with ADMI, the firm behind the design of the Apple Store, to design the Fresh & Easy store of the future. He described the concept as a “fresh-food convenience store.”

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H-E-B tops 2015 Temkin Trust Ratings

BY Michael Johnsen

WABAN, Mass. — Based on a study of 10,000 U.S consumers, H-E-B and credit unions on Tuesday took the top spots in the 2015 Temkin Trust Ratings, which rates the trust that consumers have with 293 companies across 20 industries. USAA took three of the next four spots for its banking, insurance, and credit card business, while Publix rounded out the top six firms.
 
Some highlights of the 2015 Temkin Trust Ratings include:
 
  • Only 6% of firms earned "excellent" ratings (above 70%) and 28% earned "good" ratings  (60% to 70%);
  • With average 2015 Temkin Trust Ratings of 67%, supermarket chains earned the highest level of trust. Three other industries earned "good" ratings: insurance carriers, retailers and parcel delivery services;
  • TV service providers (32%) and Internet service providers (34%) earned average scores in the "very poor" range, while wireless carriers (44%), health plans (46%) and utilities (49%) earned average scores in the "poor" range; and
  • Three companies earned Ratings that were 21 points above their industry averages: USAA (credit cards), credit unions (banks) and TriCare (health plans). Seven other companies are more than 15 points above their industry averages: USAA (banks), Georgia Power (utilities), JetBlue (airlines), Optimum (Internet service), Kaiser Permanente (health plans), USAA (insurance), and Chick-fil-A (fast foods).
In its fifth year of publication, the 2015 Temkin Trust Ratings examines trust across 20 industries: airlines, auto dealers, banks, computer and tablet makers, credit card issuers, fast food chains, health plans, hotel chains, insurance carriers, Internet service providers, investment firms, major appliance makers, parcel delivery services, rental car agencies, retailers, software firms, supermarket chains, TV service providers, utilities and wireless carriers.
 
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