There are some stores where you might have to buy certain things without waiting for a sale, because you need them now and you don’t really have a choice. Other stores, however, have so many things on sale week after week, that if you buy anything there at full price, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re paying way too much.

Walgreens may be one of those stores.

Numerator’s latest Regional Retail Insights takes a closer look at grocery, drug, dollar and superstores to find out which are most popular – and which are most promotional. And the two categories don’t necessarily align, suggesting that more shoppers may prefer stores that promote less.

The report found that Walgreens is the most promotional retailer in the country, accounting for more than 16% of all grocery and household product deals. Another national drug store chain, CVS, is second with about 12% of all promotions, followed by Target at 10%. The highest-ranking grocery stores on the list are Kroger and Albertsons, both in the mid-single digits, percentagewise.

Broken down by region, the results are slightly different. Walgreens has the greatest share of promotions in all regions, but it’s even more dominant out west, accounting for 18% of all promotions, while Kroger and Albertsons are tied with Target for second at 12%. And in the Northeast, regional grocery chains are more prominently represented, with Ahold Delhaize (owner of Giant, Stop & Shop and Hannaford) and Wakefern (ShopRite) accounting for about 10% of promotions in the region.


But in a separate ranking of the most popular stores, the top-ranked retailer isn’t even on the list of the most promotional stores. Numerator found that Walmart is the most popular retailer in the country, capturing 21% of all spending on grocery and household products. Costco is a distant second at 8%, with Kroger at 7%. Out west, Costco actually wins with 16.4% to Walmart’s 15.5%. Regional grocers like Publix in the South and Ahold Delhaize and Wakefern in the Northeast have respectable showings in their respective regions.

So it’s noteworthy that Walmart is the most frequently-shopped store, even though it’s not among the most promotional, and Walgreens is the most promotional store even though it’s not among the most frequently-shopped.

And it’s no contest, really. Numerator found that the average Walmart shopper visits the store 67 times a year – that’s more than five times a month, or every week of the year and then some. The average cost per shopping trip is $53. The typical Walgreens shopper, meanwhile, goes just 13 times a year, slightly more than once a month, and spends just about $24 per trip. So Walmart shoppers may not be taking advantage of deals the way Walgreens shoppers are, but those deals aren’t getting shoppers through the doors of Walgreens anywhere near as often as shoppers are going to Walmart.

Kroger, the most frequently cited grocery chain on both the promotional and most-visited lists, is visited an average of 48 times a year – nearly once a week – with an average bill of $47 per trip. And Costco has the highest average spending level, at $100 per trip, with visit frequency averaging 30 times a year.

Together, grocery stores and supercenters earn more than half of all grocery shopping dollars across the country. From there, preferences differ by region. Shoppers in the West spend a lot more at club stores, while Southerners are more likely to shop at dollar stores than shoppers in any other region. And Midwesterners favor supercenters while Northeasterners spend more at traditional grocery stores.

So if you like putting in the effort to clip coupons, earn rewards and scour a weekly sales circular, drug stores look to be your best bet, where you’ll find the most deals. If you’d rather do your regular shopping where you know you’ll always pay less, you can shop where so many others do, and visit Walmart. Whether shopping the sales is better, or paying everyday low prices is preferable, is an age-old debate. And this latest study confirms that the shopping method you prefer could determine whether you’re able to buy more for less – or end up spending more than you bargained for.

Image source: Walgreens

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