Taking a Look at the Wal-Mart Shopper

Last Updated Sep 23, 2008 5:37 PM EDT

By sitting in on a meeting between Wal-Mart suppliers and the Homescan & Spectra division of AC Nielsen, the Bentonville, Ark. Morning News got a rare look at shopper segmentation data from Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer.

Wal-MartHomescan assembled a 50,000-shopper panel -- the world's largest shopper panel, appropriately enough -- to model behavior of the Wal-Mart universe. The combination of survey info, store demographics, and scanner data gives the retailer new ability to customize each store's assortment and try to figure out trends.

Some interesting findings:

  • Wal-Mart's category market share is calculated against other food, drug, and mass retailers, but not specialty retailers, so categories in which specialty retailers own a lot of share will skew disproportionately to Wal-Mart. For example, the Bentonville giant claims 80 percent of car care and accessories share, but that's not counting NAPA, Checker, Advance, and other auto parts stores.
  • Wal-Mart shoppers are making fewer trips but spending 3 percent more. Nielsen's Bob Rouse wasn't sure how much food price inflation is responsible for that increase. Shoppers report that they're buying less expensive brands, using more coupons, and shopping supercenters to save on gasoline.
  • Who's the fastest-growing Wal-Mart demographic? Shoppers making more than $70,000 a year, up 12 percent from 2007. "Brand aspirationals," a younger demographic that cares about name brands and labels, were the focus of Wal-Mart's promotional strategies through the beginning of 2008, but the company has shifted back to low-price messages. Forty-two percent of Wal-Mart sales are to customers making less than $40,000 a year.
Photo of a Laramie, Wyo., Wal-Mart by Chris Patriarca, via Flickr, CC 2.0
  • Lisa Everitt

    A Denver-based business writer, Lisa Everitt is a veteran of daily and weekly newspapers and trade magazines, including The Natural Foods Merchandiser, Rocky Mountain News, Inter@ctive Week, San Francisco Business Times, and the Peninsula Times Tribune.