Kantar began this semi-annual price comparison in 2009, and this is the fifth iteration. Among the key findings:Edible Grocery Items
The company bought a basket of 13 edible grocery items. The result showed that Walmart was cheaper by around 1%. The greatest margins were on StarKist Tuna in Water (Target $0.86, Walmart $1.28) and Land 'O Lakes butter, 1 lb. salted (Target $4.39, Walmart $3.48). Important to note is that five of the Target items were on special, while only one Walmart item was on sale. Had these not been on sale, Walmart would have been cheaper by 6.2%.
This selection included items such as light bulbs and paper towels. In this category, Walmart was dominant, with a 3.4% advantage over Target. The largest differences between the two were on packages of GE Soft White Light Bulbs, 60 watts, selling for $1.88 at Walmart and $2.29 at Target, and Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition dog food, $12.57 at Walmart, $10.99 at Target.
Kantar noted that two of the Target items in this category were on special, while none were at Walmart. If the items had all been purchased at their normal price, Walmart would have beaten Target by 6%.
Before you get too excited about this margin of victory, however, you should know that in the five instances of this test, Walmart has finished ahead twice, Target three times.
Health and Beauty Aids
In this class of goods, Target won by a whopping 7.3%, in part because almost 30% of the items were on sale, versus only one at Walmart. However, had all the items been at everyday prices, Target would still have undersold Walmart by 5.5%.
The largest price differences were for Pantene Pro-V, $5.47 at Walmart, $5.84 at Target, and Softsoap Melon Honey & Milk, $1.47 at Walmart, $1.00 at Target. One item dominated this basket; Nicorette Original Gum 2 mg, selling for $63.00 at Walmart and $57.59 at Target.
The total difference was 2.8% to the advantage of Target. More item prices fell with 10% of one another than not, while around one in four were more than 10% lower at Target. If all sale prices had been ignored, though, Target's total basket would have been only 50 cents cheaper.
The company also compared similar house brand alternatives to name-brand items. In a 14-item basket from all three categories, Walmart came out on top by 3.6%. This finding is consistent with earlier versions of the study. Among the items compared were ketchup, aluminum foil, and baby powder.
Where the Deals Are
So where should you shop for the best deal? Based on Target coming out cheapest three times and Walmart twice, it appears that shoppers are shooting at a moving target in the great shell game that is big-box retailing. However, I would take a few broad generalities from the results:
- Target's low prices depend more than Walmart on temporary sales. If you're not a slave to a particular brand and are willing to change for a brand on sale, you might save a little money at Target by shopping the sales.
- If you don't like change, you might be better off at Walmart, which is re-emphasizing its everyday low price strategy and getting away from temporary price reductions.
- Walmart seems to have an advantage in house brands that shows up every time this study is repeated.