3 Ways Your Income Impacts Your Grocery Shopping Habits

For some of us it’s a monotonous chore, and for others it’s an enjoyable experience. The average U.S. shopper makes between four and seven trips to the grocery store each month. As a regular part of the weekly routine for many of us, we develop shopping habits, set list items, and we may even have a preferred route of travel through the grocery store — beverage section first, then dry goods, then cold and frozen foods, and after that, produce.

A variety of marketing strategies are based on our shopping behaviors. Higher priced products are located at eye level, and certain featured items are placed at the end of each isle. As consumers, we have a great deal of common shopping characteristics. The average supermarket carries around 45,000 choices, and certain items like soda, milk, eggs, cereal, bread, snacks, and frozen foods are some of the items most of us have in common on our grocery lists.

While our shopping habits are similar in some regards, we all have different tastes and certain shoppers have unique characteristics. Income level largely influences our grocery shopping decisions and those in the highest earning groups have some commonalities, just as do those in the lower earning groups.

Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent consumer expenditure survey, coupled with supplemental information, we were able to determine what each of the nine income groups have in common when it comes to grocery shopping behaviors. Here are a few of the traits each group shares.

Source: Adage http://adage.com/images/random/walmart_avecust.pdf

Source: Adage

Retailer Choice

The above chart, (although a bit dated) displays the income levels of Wal-mart shoppers. As per the chart, many lower income groups favor Wal-mart’s low price model. Other retailers, like Publix, place customer service first, and competitive prices lower on the priority list. “We believe that there are three ways to differentiate: service, quality, and price … you’ve got to be good at two of them, and the best at one. We make service our number one, then quality, and then price,” Publix president, Todd Jones, said to Forbes.

While you may see a few lower income shoppers buying their groceries at a store like Publix, this is the exception rather than the rule as most Publix stores are located in middle or higher income areas. Lower income shoppers are more inclined to shop at lower priced grocery stores, such as Save-a-Lot or Aldi. In extremely low income areas, residents may shop at corner stores and smaller convenience stores as those within these groups may not have the transportation necessary to travel to a full-service grocery store on a regular basis.