Ace Hardware beat out its much larger home improvement rivals in a customer satisfaction survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates.

Big box retailer Menards took second place and Lowe’s came in third, while Home Depot earned a lower score than the industry average to rank sixth.

It’s the first time the market research firm measured customer satisfaction levels among home improvement retailers.

The study also found that customers spend an average of more than $2,100 a year on home improvement products.

J.D. Powers said a knowledgeable sales staff is key, and echoed many of the complaints leveled recently at under-staffed Home Depot.

“Home improvement retail stores typically have a wide array of product offerings, which could be overwhelming to shoppers, especially those seeking support for do-it-yourself projects,” said Jim Howard, senior director of the real estate and construction practice at Power. “Many of these retailers tout the quality of their customer service in slogans and advertising, but the study tells us that those companies that truly ‘walk the talk’ differentiate themselves and demonstrate notably higher customer satisfaction.”

Ace earned a score of 812 on 1,000-point scale. Menards and Lowe’s received 801 and 798 points, respectively.

Home Depot received a score of 757 points, below the average of 773 points.

The survey was based on the responses of more than 16,200 consumers who have purchased home improvement products or services in the past 12 months from such a retailer. The study indicated how satisfied consumers were based on, in order of importance, sales staff, merchandise and services, store facility, price competitiveness, sales/promotions, and, finally, checkout.