Grocery Shopping At Walmart

The large grocery store chains used to have virtual monopolies on food shoppers’ wallets. However, over the last five years their fortunes have changed, and their stock prices have lagged. The pressure has come from a two-pronged attack, discounters and healthier food stores. Walmart mostly and Target to some degree in the former group, and the likes of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in the latter group.

Some of the traditional grocery stores have seen the light and are attempting to shift their store offerings to be more like a Whole Foods. Safeway, for instance, has begun a remodeling campaign under the “Lifestyle” concept to regain some of the market share it has lost in recent years. Time will tell if the move works, but at least they are trying, so their odds are far better than those simply muddling along with razor thin margins and no plan to at least maintain the business they have.

This weekend I shopped at Walmart for groceries for the first time. That was a big step for me. I hate shopping at Walmart. I find their stores a miserable experience. While the prices are low, the departments aren’t well organized and much of the shelves look like they haven’t been restocked in weeks. More times than with any other store, I can wander around for 5 or 10 minutes looking for the aisle I need. This is a sharp contrast to Target stores, which I find to be fully stocked and very easy to navigate.

Anyway, back to Walmart and groceries. I usually visit the local grocery store, more out of convenience than anything else. However, I finally bit the bullet and realized I could save some decent money in Walmart’s grocery aisles. After a successful trip, I came home and compared Walmart’s prices to those I paid during my last trip to the local grocery chain. I wanted to know how much the savings really amounted to. Turns out, Walmart’s regular prices are 30% below my neighborhood grocery store. Even when you factor in the local grocer’s sale prices, Walmart still saved me 20%.

While I still prefer to go elsewhere, I will be making more trips to Walmart for staple items that I know I can save a good amount of money on. For me, that seems to be groceries and toiletries. With Walmart continuing to expand their food selection and Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s growing their store bases at 20% annual rates, the traditional grocery chains better adjust, as Safeway is attempting to do, or else they will become extinct fairly quickly.