Dare to Ask: Why are Walmart shoppers so different from Target shoppers?
By Phillip J. Milano
At our local stores there is a huge difference in the type of people who shop in
Walmart compared to Target. Are the Walmarts in other areas like this?
Trent, Fargo, N.D.
I don’t understand the need for many Walmart customers who seem to make an
effort to be offensive and walk around with a “Kiss My A—” attitude.
Joyce, white, Middleburg
Walmart generally appeals to a broader class of people, including the lower
classes. Targets tend to have merchandise designed to cater to the budget-minded
middle and upper classes.
Kristy, 30, white female, Albany, Ga.
I find nicer products at Target and an overall less-trashy feel from the store
condition and shoppers.
Scott, white, Ohio
From Jacksonville.com Users
Walmart shoppers seem more about the perception of saving a dollar or two. They
seem to enjoy bringing the whole family, having lunch in the store, gaggling up
and down every aisle in an excursion of discovery. Target shoppers seem more
focused on getting their purchases and getting on with their lives outside
We’re going to get to the too-tight clothes and insane hair stuff. Have
patience. But let us at least create the appearance of propriety by first
discussing some findings by consumer shopping analyst Scarborough Research:
■ Target-exclusive shoppers are more likely to be female, younger and richer.
For example, Target-exclusives had an average household income of about $85,000,
compared to $57,000 for Walmart-exclusives, according to a 2005 survey.
■ Walmart-exclusives are most likely to also be in the checkout lanes at Dollar
General, Family Dollar and Big Lots, while Target-exclusives are hitting up
Nordstrom, Macy’s, Costco and Mervyn’s.
■ Walmart is big in smaller and Southern markets, while Target performs best in
larger urban areas.
■ Jacksonville is a Top-12 market for Walmart. Nine out of 10 River City
shoppers had cruised the retailer’s aisles in the previous three months, the
But enough of that. Why does it seem so many more people sport jaw-dropping
hairstyles and expose intergluteal clefts at Wally-World?
“There does seem to be a lot hanging out where there shouldn’t be,” confirmed
Luke Wherry, who co-founded PeopleofWalmart.com in 2009 with two 20-something
friends. The site, which gets more than 6 million unique visitors monthly, posts
hilarious user-submitted photos of Walmart customers. (Visit it. Oh, you already
But Wherry, who shops both Walmart and Target, said the site isn’t poking fun at
“Some of these customers could be wealthy, but they are wearing ridiculous
stuff. … We are just portraying Americans and their poor fashion choices.”
As far as whether the two retailers’ clientele are all that different, Wherry
said while Target has its share of customers who seem above ever stepping inside
a Walmart, Walmart just attracts, well, everyone, from low-incomers to Ferrari
owners. So naturally, you might see strange goings-on more frequently there.
“Plus it’s all about convenience. You can get anything there, from a sandwich to
oil to shampoo and deodorant.”
More people – regular, God-fearing folks – just seem to pop into Walmart on a
bad day, and if they do, chances are they might wind up on PeopleofWalmart.com,
said Wherry, who co-edited the photo-book “People of Walmart: Shop and Awe”
In addition to odd garb, Walmart shoppers love to bring in animals like
skunks and stuff, including someone once even accompanied by a mini-horse (they
took that photo down in response to complaints they were dissing creatures
sometimes used as seeing-eye service animals).
Wherry’s personal favorite?
The photo captioned “Need More Supplies,” of a guy sporting a red tie-dyed shirt
and face covered in gold spray paint, and the only thing in his cart seems to be
gold spray paint.
“Obviously a huffer.”
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Phillip Milano, author of "I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee)," moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Keep the cross-cultural dialogue going at his
Jacksonville.com blog or at www.yforum.com. Send general
column comments to yforum (at) yforum.com. You can also hear his