Target vs. Walmart: Which Superstore Is Superior?

published Feb 18, 2024
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Target and Walmart storefronts
Credit: Carina Romano, Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

Grocery stores, like sports teams, have incredibly devoted followings. You’ve got your Costco-Heads, Trader Joe’s Buffs, Aldi Superfans, and a few Lidl Disciples, sure. Two very passionate (read: opinionated) sets of groupies belong to none other than a set of superstar superstores: Target and Walmart.

Pin both grocers against each other and it’s a real showdown for the ages. While it might seem like I’m comparing apples and oranges, both Target and Walmart are well-known for stocking, well, almost everything (like school supplies, fresh produce, and even giant jack-o’-lanterns named Lewis) and have earned a spot in many a one-stop-shoppers’ hearts. 

Putting grocery retailers in head-to-head faceoffs has been endlessly fascinating to me lately (see: Aldi vs. Lidl, Aldi vs. Walmart, and Costco vs. Sam’s Club). Although I wasn’t prepared for how close a match-up it would be. Ultimately, it’s my hope that grocery shopping can take up space in your week not merely as a chore, but maybe even become a pleasant experience. Which is why I compared product variety, quality, prices, availability, and overall shopping experience to judge them as holistically as possible.

To keep things as equal as possible, I visited Southern California-based Walmart and Target locations — within two miles of each other — on the same Friday evening. Here’s how they stacked up.

Credit: Left: ZikG/Shutterstock; Right: Billy F Blume Jr/Shutterstock

Product Variety

This was a landslide win for Walmart for a few reasons. If you want name-brand items, Walmart’s got it. What if you want a store-brand version of those same items? Walmart also has it. On top of its deli, hot food section, and even a bakery, Walmart just simply has it all. 

While Target’s own in-house brands are expanding wildly, they’ve still got a bit of catching up to do — Walmart has been in the grocery game for noticeably longer (the superstore started carrying groceries in 1988, whereas Target only began selling select items, like snacks and drinks, in 1995; it didn’t add fresh groceries to the mix until 2009). I also love that Walmart has a huge stock of specialty items that I typically have to go to my local Asian or Latin market to stock up on, like soba noodles, large bottles of Valentina hot sauce, and my favorite Hello Panda cookies.

Winner: Walmart has variety for days, plus plenty of store-brand equivalents of popular standbys.

Credit: Left: Chantarat/Shutterstock; Right: Moab Republic/Shutterstock

Product Quality

Strolling through both stores, there was a clear distinction in terms of quality. Some items at Walmart looked like they had been opened and snacked on (including cartons of berries!), a bag or two of spinach looked a bit past their prime, and frozen broccoli was stem-heavy. Target has been the opposite experience. More often than not, I’ve found that Target’s grocery products are not only great but also priced low enough that it feels like a steal.  

Anecdotally, I’ve yet to return any food item to Target based on quality alone. Conversely, I’ve had to return a few items to Walmart over the years because they weren’t nearly as tasty as the equivalents I’ve gotten at Target.

Winner: Target. Simply put, Target is right in the sweet spot of great prices and great quality. Shopping there also saves me from making any unexpected returns.

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

Prices

For prices, I chose eight of my weekly staples to see how they’d fare against each other. To keep things as equal as possible, I visited a Walmart and a Target that were within two miles of each other on the same day.

Credit: Photos: Walmart and Target; Design: The Kitchn

Winner: Tie! Okay, technically Target was cheaper, but it really can vary based on what items you’re grabbing. Plus, keep in mind that two items (frozen chicken nuggets and bagged spinach) were noticeably smaller than Walmart’s version, and not always the better deal. If you prefer name-brand items, Walmart was also noticeably cheaper. If store-brand is, to quote Ina, “fine,” Target is a solid bet. In this case, I’d call this a tie for both Target and Walmart.  

Credit: Mackenzie Filson

Product Availability

Where there’s product quality (and deals), there should also be plenty of items on the shelf. As was the case for Target, it just simply didn’t have it all in spades, with many staples (like avocados and gallons of milk) being empty on a Friday evening. Getting to the store is sometimes a slog, so it helps if you don’t have to make any added stops to grab the basics. 

Winner: Walmart’s plentiful, overflowing shelves get the “W” here!

Overall Shopping Experience

From the availability of staff, cleanliness of the store, and plentiful checkouts, Target is top-notch in my book. Moving through Target was also easier compared to Walmart, with less dodging of shopping carts and little to no bottle-necking from store staff restocking shelves. I also give Target major points for always seeming to have an element of surprise on the shelves, with tons of new-to-me items under its store-brand lines (like Favorite Day sourdough loaves and Good & Gather jalapeño cream cheese wontons).

Winner: Target really makes grocery shopping pretty joyful — so much so that my friends mock how often I end up at the retailer during the week (and not just for canned black beans).

Do you prefer grocery shopping at Target or Walmart? Tell us about it in the comments below.