You are where you shop: What your grocery store says about you

December 9, 2013

Where did you go shopping this weekend? If you tend to vote Democrat, odds are you stocked up at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. If you call yourself a Republican, you were more likely to stock up at Wal-Mart or Costco. Independent voters are more likely to get their groceries at traditional grocery stores, like Food Lion, Publix or Albertson’s.

That’s according to data compiled by Scarborough, the New York-based consumer research firm. The cross-referenced data show voters who always vote in local and statewide elections are more likely to shop at warehouse grocery stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club, and specialty grocery stores, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Those who don’t vote in local and statewide elections are more likely to get groceries from big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart.

Of course, where you buy groceries is also a function of what grocery stores exist in your neighborhood. Iowans are going to shop at Hy-Vee, while Floridians are bound to stop off at Publix or Winn-Dixie on their way home. Northeasterners can choose from Giant, Stop & Shop or ShopRite; Californians and Westerners will be more familiar with Fresh & Easy, Safeway and Albertsons.

Here’s where the country’s major grocery chains are located, according to Flowing Data, a map-making wizard who uses AggData numbers:


Source: Flowing Data

A few more facts from our friends at Scarborough:

— The wealthier a household, the more likely its residents shop at a specialty grocery store. Households with incomes above $250,000 a year were more than twice as likely to shop at the more expensive specialty stores than the average consumer.

— Teenagers must get expensive. Households with one or more teenagers were much more likely to shop at big box or warehouse stores than they were at specialty stores — all the better, presumably, to buy those mammoth boxes of cereal.

— Younger shoppers like bigger stores. Millenials represent a larger share of big box customers than any other kind of shopping center. Generation X consumers, who are between 30 and 49, make up a larger portion of shoppers overall — meaning they’re more likely to be doing the shopping for a household. Baby Boomers, between 50-69, shop more at warehouse stores than at big boxes, while the Silent Generation, those over age 70, are most likely just to head to the traditional grocery store. Older shoppers are far less likely to be wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart or Costco, the Scarborough data show.

— Perhaps not surprisingly, people who consume energy drinks are more likely to have shopped at a big box store than anywhere else. An energy drink consumer is 22 percent more likely to shop at a big box, and slightly less likely than the average adult to shop at a specialty or traditional grocery store.

— Consumers spend more money at warehouse grocery stores than anywhere else. They told Scarborough they spent an average of $145 per week at Costco or Sam’s Club, compared with $141 a week spent by specialty grocery shoppers. Big box consumers shell out $136 per week, while those who shop at traditional stores drop $134 a week.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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