Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our local WalMart

There's a tiny little Walmart near me that, unlike most Walmarts, isn't in its own building but is in a space that another store left vacant in the end of a mall. It's the smallest Walmart on the east coast, as they are ever so eager to tell you any time they don't have what you want in stock. About an hour away there's a more conventional big-box Walmart -- huge by Vermont standards, but by Walmart standards fairly middling -- it's not a Supercenter, doesn't have a grocery side, and certainly no Sam's Club.
In the comparatively rare case when I end up at the bigger Walmart, it's usually during the day on a weekend, since that's when I do the kind of shopping that brings me up there. The local Walmart, I might be at on a weekend or a weeknight, in day or night.

If you look at the clientele of the big Walmart up in Burlington the typical visitor immediately inspires a particular stereotype: the soccer mom. That Walmart is mostly visited by suburban, comparatively upscale people, usually well-dressed (casual but still presentable), no-nonsense, busy folk. Whereas, the Walmart down near me tends to attract a much more blue-collar crowd, bordering on what one might call "trailer trash" -- I don't mean that in a disparaging sense, but just as one subtype of the blue-collar crowd that happens to frequent this Walmart.

I thought at first that the time of day might be responsible for at least part of the disparity, but being at our Walmart on weekdays during the day shows no real shift at all in the clientele. So now I wonder why the difference is so pronounced. I would not be surprised to see some difference just because of the difference in the population of Williston and its surrounding areas, and the population of Montpelier and Barre and their surrounding areas; but I am surprised at how stark and broad the difference is. I also don't typically see a gap anywhere near as large at other stores and restaurants; the difference in most places is about what you'd expect given the differing populations. Why is it that Walmart has so much broader and more sharply defined a difference?

1 comment:

sfad said...

That's really an interesting thought... Walmart itself is a very interesting entity to observe. In Canada we have some Walmarts but they're not as 'ubiquitous' and attract a fairly wide spectrum of people, from those in the suburbs to the blue collar groups. So I'm not sure how to answer your question but perhaps it has to do with what's available in the area, and how people in different regions perceive Walmart.