I work in six different super centers as a vendor/ merchandiser (I don't actually "vend" anything). The stores I work in are all part of a local large chain. I personally find the dynamics of each individual store quite interesting. One of my stores is a little bit hillbilly. If you walk down the main aisle at that store there tends to be more hunting and fishing items on display. One of my stores is in an area with a high population of Hispanic residents and you will find a much larger variety of ethnic foods related to Hispanic cuisine at that location compared to the others. One of the stores is near a very large university and it is VERY geared towards college kids. One of the most interesting differences that I've found is that one of the stores, near a high population of Dutch descendants has these awesome Dutch pig in the blankets in the frozen foods department that none of my other stores carry. It took my awhile to realize why I could only find them at one store (and to figure out which store I'd bought them at).
Most shoppers are very unaware of the differences between stores. Besides small layout differences the average customer has no idea that one store will offer a larger variety of a particular item than another based on clientele. Most shoppers are also unaware that prices are a few cents higher on most items in a store depending on whether or not there's a Walmart across the street and also depending on the overall economic situation of the area. Lower income areas tend to have lower priced items throughout the stores. (The chain I work in began in 1934 (28 years before Walmart) and is credited with pioneering the modern supercenter concept. The owners originally wanted to keep the stores local (unlike Walmart). It is rumored that Walmart tried to buy the company which refused to ever sell, after which Sam Walton vowed to build a Walmart directly across the street from every single location of this chain. Walmart has been pretty successful in this vendetta. However a few stores are still without the competitor directly across the street and the prices on items throughout are higher at those stores by a few cents.) At one store a yogurt cup will cost 59 cents and at another, only a few miles away the same yogurt cup will be 65 cents. Most customers don't realize this. These subtle differences fascinate me.
I could be wrong but I imagine most if not all chains operate with this same model. Lower prices where there's more competition and in lower income areas, higher prices where there's more wealth and less competition. There are three stores in particular not very close to my home (closer to a big city about 40 minutes away) where a few of my friends shop. The price differences at these stores is actually pretty drastic even though all three stores are quite close together. I've talked to my friends about the price differences between the lower income area store (with a Walmart across the street) and the the higher income area stores (both don't have a walmart directly across the street).
My friends were completely unaware of the price differences until I pointed them out. BUT they both said the same thing, they prefer the higher income area store and "the small price hike doesn't seem like such a big thing." In fact one of my friends drives farther to go to the higher priced store. Mind you, I used to work at this particular lower income store once a week, for several years (it's no longer one of my locations). It's not a bad store and if you go during the morning/ afternoon it doesn't seem "low income" or unsafe. It is a bit older, not quite as clean and fancy and it does get a little more interesting in the evenings but the friends I'm referring to do shop in the morning/ afternoon.
For example's sake, if you had a cart with 40 items in it and the average cost was 10 cents per item higher (that would obviously balance out to where some items would be 2 to 3 cents more and others would be say 40 to 60 cents more) that trip would cost you $4 more at the higher priced location. If you shopped a similar trip three times a week your groceries would cost $12 more a week and $624 more a year. Now, most people honestly don't notice the subtle price differences. Literally, every person I've ever pointed these price differences out to has been unaware of them. But even once I've pointed out price differences people have almost always said, "I like this store more."
The way we shop, where we shop, and paying attention to every penny goes a long way if you actually care about spending $624 to shop in a "nicer" store as opposed to spending $624 on an actual thing (or having that extra $624 to put towards debt or savings). When we throw quick stops at a "convenience" store into the picture price differences can actually be quite drastic. Instead of 2 cent or 10 cent differences there will be several dollars worth in price differences. You really do pay for convenience at a convenience store.
What would you do with $624 (or more)? Do you pay attention to price differences in shopping centers where you live? This is just one little aspect to the spending saving game but it's an aspect that's incredibly intriguing to me and something that I don't think a lot of people pay attention to.