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Supermarket Ethnography

People tend to display different behaviors, although certain similarities are discernable. Visiting supermarkets is one of the behaviors that are common across modern societies. Considering such conduct, the current paper comprises observations from field work, which entailed visiting various marketplaces. The paper is based on visits to CVS, a relatively small convenience store (Russell and Cohn 10-15), Walgreen, a small pharmaceutical outlet, and Target Corporation, a big supermarket (Rowley 2). The general intention of studying the issue was to understand the reasons that drive people to visit the establishments.

Based on the outcome, individuals visiting Target are also known for going shopping accompanied with their children. The fact that the store is popular for selling toys partly explains the behavior. Surprisingly, the parents do not buy the items as they prefer letting their children play with them before leaving for other destinations. The realization leads to the belief that the playground might be the main attraction.

Stores Background

CVS Pharmacy

CVS Pharmacy is an American retailer that focuses on pharmaceutical products, although it continues offering other goods (Russell and Cohn, 10-15). After Walgreens, CVS is the largest pharmacy chain in the United States. The dominant position is supported by the view that the outlet runs more than seven thousand five hundred stores (Russell and Cohn 10-15). Based on the given facts, the retailer is also the second largest across the US. The retailer sells drugs and an assortment of regular merchandise, such as over-the-counter drugs, cosmetics, beauty products, photo and film finishing services, greeting cards, seasonal items, and convenience foods (Russell and Cohn 10-15). Besides, the retailer provides healthcare services across over one thousand MinuteClinic units and the Diabetes Care Centers. Such clinics are based on the CVS stores (Russell and Cohn 10-15).

Although it is based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, the CVS Company was incorporated in Delaware (Russell and Cohn 10-15). Founded in 1963 in Lowell Massachusetts by Ralph Hoagland, Sid Goldstein and Stanley Goldstein, the entity was known as the Consumer Value Store. Originally, it operated as a beauty aid and a discount health store. Unlike today, the customers were required to bag their items individually (Russell and Cohn 10-15). Operating as a Melville Corporation subsidiary, the initial name was Consumer Value Stores. Later (in 1996), the name was changed to CVS Corporation following Melville’s decision to sell a number of its non-pharmacy centers. Presently, CVS is an abbreviation for ‘Convenience, Value, and Service’.

While operating as regional chain in the northeast part of the US, a number of CVS stores did not have pharmacies among their in-house businesses (Russell and Cohn 10-15). However, at present, the company rarely builds such stores without factoring spaces for pharmacies. Although pharmacies are not in every outlet, they are found in many facilities. Food items are among the most stocked products by the retailer.

Target Corporation

Just like the CVS, the Target Corporation is also an American retailer that has a wide presence in the northern part of America. The company offers a wide array of products. The retailer is famous for its low pricing strategy, which has spurred comparisons with giant retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Costco. After Wal-Mart, Target Corporation is the largest retailer in the US (Rowley 9). The entity with its headquarters in Minneapolis was founded in 1902 by Goodfellow Dry Goods (Rowley 2). However, due to some reasons, the store was not opened until 1962. In 2000, the Target store was renamed and called the Target Corporation.

By 2015, the corporation operated across one thousand eight hundred locations in the US (Rowley 2-5). Discount stores, hypermarket, TargetExpress and CityTarget are some of the major formats that the company operated before its consolidation. The entity also runs subsidiaries in Australia and Canada. By 1970, the company had become an industry leader, based on revenues (Rowley 6). One of its largest stores is the one that was opened in Apple Valley, Minnesota in 1990 (Rowley 4). The facility provided a wider array of items compared to other units from the same company.

Mid 2015, CVS Health reached an agreement with the Target Corporation over the acquisition of the latter’s pharmacy alongside with retail clinic businesses (Wikipedia). The development meant that CVS was expanding exponentially as it entered new markets, such as Seattle, Portland, Denver, and Salt Lake City. The deal allowed CVS control 1,660 pharmacies spread across forty-seven States from the Target Corporation. The CVS decided to run them using a store-within-a-store structure.

Why People Shop in Supermarkets

People love shopping at supermarkets for various reasons. One of the often-cited factors is convenience. Convenience is viewed in terms of location, pricing, product availability among other considerations. Based on the study, many shoppers at the stores were from the neighborhoods of the retailers. The implication is that the customers found it convenient to look for products in areas that are close to their places of residence. Secondly, pricing emerges as a major factor that consumers consider before buying items. Entities, such as Wal-Mart, have reached success due to the competitive pricing. The Target store is also performing well due to the same strategy. Product users are always looking for retailers who offer the best quality products at the lowest prices. Thus, it is concluded that shoppers prefer supermarkets due to the price convenience. Within supermarkets, it is possible to find a variety of items under one roof. In the present day, customers do not have much time to move from one place to another in search of products. Given that supermarkets avail the items at one point, consumers find such a possibility convenient.

Based on the ethnographic study, Target seems the preferred choice among many shoppers. The first interview respondent expressed the following thought after he had been asked about her preference for the retailer: “I was just comparing prices. Cause I already got something in another store.” The implication is that pricing is a major factor for shoppers. However, some of them are interested in knowing the prices rather than making purchases. The second respondent indicated that the cleanliness at the Target store was a major attraction to shoppers. Besides, the participant felt that the clothes were perfect as they fitted her expectations. It also emerged that many of the shoppers at the Target outlet were also residents within the location. Hence, based on the findings, customers visit stores for one main reason, which is to buy items. However, various factors play a role in making them go to the stores. From the paper, convenience, price, hygiene, and quality items were the major considerations.

When two young women were asked about their preference for the Target store, they indicated that the coffee was good there. They also cited attractive decorations and home items as some of the reasons they go there. In addition, the two young women said that the price was an important factor for their visiting the outlet. Similarly with the previous respondents, the two women resided around the locality of the store.

Field notes 1 relate to the observation at CVS Pharmacy. Based on them, CVS and Target are typical supermarkets given the fact that visitors go to the outlets to pick some routine items. People who visit the outlets are from diverse backgrounds. For instance, there are African-Americans, Chinese Americans, White Americans, and many others. The Chinese couple interviewed was interested in fast food and some other items for their home. It also emerges that a big percentage of the individuals coming to the stores are looking for fast food. As indicated by the field notes 1, the percent of the visitors focused on buying such products is 60%. However, a small portion is interested in electronics. For instance, field notes 1 point out that one person came to look for a specific cable, which he did not find. For lady shoppers, grooming items were a major attraction. Such position is affirmed based on the observation from field notes 1, which indicated that a lady who came to the store directly went to the make-up area. Consequently, as a result of trying various items on her body, the woman bought a number of different products.

From the notes, it was indicated that homeless people also visit supermarkets. Their intention, though, is to find something to eat, preferably from well-wishers. The third set of field notes are drawn from Target, located at 1154 S Clark St, South Loop. Unlike the CVS Pharmacy, the Target supermarket is comparatively bigger. A similarity is discerned regarding the items that are stocked in the two facilities. For example, the shoppers can easily find wine and other alcohol products across the wines and spirits section.

Based on field notes 2, some peculiarities are discerned. The differences are explained by the late entry of the CVS Pharmacy into the market. Nevertheless, people can find a wide range of necessary items within its area, including products from the dog food section. The other shoppers can find necessary goods at the cosmetics section or any other section they need. For example, a man is spotted shopping for cereals. After purchasing the eggs that I was looking for, I left the premise to find the homeless man somewhere near the CVS Pharmacy. The findings lead to the observation that people shop for different items for various reasons.

Target’s Role

The primary role that the entity plays in society is to avail various products and services to consumers. It is evident that people are always seeking items to satisfy a number of their needs. Owing to various demands from the society, entities, such as Target, become necessary. The findings from the field also support the above observation. Below are the samples of the responses.

From the field notes 3, the Target supermarket has a number of in-house shops. For instance, there is Starbucks section, which is selling salads and fresh juices. In the laundry and detergent section, mostly women can be spotted. The ages of the lady shoppers usually range from 40 to 50. Proceeding further to the razor and toothpaste section, two men are seen there. The first man is aged around sixty years, while the other one falls into the age group between 20 and 30. The old man is of African-American origin, while the young person is of the Indian descent. Different clothes are also on offer at the supermarket, and customers can easily find them in different sections. Based on the field notes 3, a 40 year old woman of Asian origin is selecting clothes. In the Halloween and costumes section, a man of Asian descent walks into the outlet with a girl sitting on a cart. At the same time, an African-American couple makes its way across the car appliances section. On offer product of the day include battery mini car. The cars are ideal for kids under the age of six. The sizes of on offer models are big enough and constructed on basis of Audi and Mercedes. The couple is shocked with the price of 189 dollars, considering it an extremely good offer. However, the couple does not buy any item. The implication is that some visitors just come to identify what is on offer, alongside with the prices of goods. Hence, apart from offering item for use, the corporation accords people an avenue to identify new products and their prices.

Unlike in other sections, where help is not provided, at the computer section, the attendants demonstrate a willingness to assist before any engagement. At the books section, shoppers are engaged with a view to highlighting, which books may be interesting for reading. The implication is that some shoppers visit supermarkets for information, which they use to highlight to their friends on what they should buy. Across the second floor, clothes are the dominant group of items on offer. Thus, it is not surprising that approximately eighty percent of the people there are women. Almost fifty percent have clothes at hand. Many customers seem to select and purchase clothes without attempts to fit them. There are also many shoppers at the beauty section. The individuals at that section are looking for fashion items, such as nail polishes and cosmetics. A young man and woman are seen with each on a separate mission to find personal beauty products. Another woman also visits the department and opts for shampoo.

The fifth field notes demonstrate the popularity of the Starbucks section in the Target supermarket. Thirteen customers are seated around tables. Of the entire population, only one is male who seems to be in his 30s. While the man is playing on his computer, the rest are busy enjoying their food. Target employees also buy coffee at the outlet. At the Freshii Salad Bar, only one woman is seen. Inside the Target supermarket’s Household Supplies section, two women aged around forty years are seen shopping using carts. Some people look for washing detergents, while others buy personal hygiene items, such as toothpaste.

Field notes 5 also demonstrate that at the pharmacy section, a woman who looks pale and weak seems interested in drugs. Another young woman enters the area and directly proceeds to the counter to buy medicine. At the snacks section, chips and other food items are on sale. At the beverage and wine section, a forty year old mother accompanied by her daughter is seen. The woman is not focused on toys but her personal items. In addition, a fifty-year old man enters and buys wine. Based on the current section, it is evident that the role of the Target organization does not differ from that of any other supermarket.

Meaning of Target to Different People

In practice, visiting supermarket can mean different things for various people (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 2011). Without a doubt, Target is primarily a retailer that offers products to consumers. From the field notes, it is clear that the retailer’s customers come from diverse backgrounds. For instance, people of different races (African-Americans, Asian Americans, and White American among others) comprise the customer base. It is also apparent that the customers range from young to old individuals. There is a consistency that the interests of kids are largely based on toys. For parents with kids, they also look for an opportunity to buy their individual, and children’s items at one convenient area. It is also apparent that the presence of a playing space attracts both parents and their children to the store.

At the dinner time, supermarkets are often busy. Based on field notes 4, more than ten customers are at Starbucks at Target supermarket. Whereas four of them are queuing, the rest are seated around tables. Given the big luggage they are carrying, it is hypothesized that they are from school or work. However, the Freshii salad bar remains closed. Three women and two men are in front of a giant yogurt-fruit fridge picking their preferred items. In addition, two couples are next to the orange and apple buckets section. In front of the milk fridge is a young woman with her child. After a small disagreement between the mother and son, they finally take cream. From their conversation, it seems like they left the father at home. From the scene, it seems that toys are not the only factor that interests children given that the mother and son are buying cream. At the other side is the frozen food & pizza unit. A youthful Asian boy is in front of a fridge eager to place an order. The boy has selected a broad array of frozen foods, indicating that he will be away from such shopping facilities for some time. The selection contains Buffalo wings, BBQ wings, and jalape?o cheese stick. From the above observation, some adults see Target as a resting place, as they take coffee and go home from work. For children, the supermarket is a perfect place for playing. In addition, for all categories of people, Target means a place for shopping.

At another end is an elderly woman in her 40s (owing to her advanced age, it is expected that she is a parent). The lady has selected toasts, vegetables, and steaks. Unlike other sections, which are busy, the snacks, flour, and cookies section seems deserted. From field notes 4, it emerges that at the toys section two girls are seen surveying the products displayed there. Aged approximately five years, it is expected that their parents are around. The findings confirm that the Target supermarket means a shopping place for all categories of people.

Further, the information from field notes 5 indicates that at the fruit and vegetable area, a young man shops for strawberry, while a young mother and her five-year-old boy go for salad. In addition, a young woman enters the area, and goes searching for milk. However, it appears that she has been in the facility for a long time given that her cart contains water and other drinks. Another elderly woman passes by having Cheetos bags in her cart.

It is surprising that females outnumber males in the store by a big margin given that the ratio is likely to be twelve to one. Additionally, single buyers seem more in number compared to couple ones. Many shoppers prefer using carts with few opting for baskets, and very few shopping without the two carrying items. A major finding is that a third of the shoppers, mostly mothers, at the Target supermarket are accompanied with children Based on the finding, the Target supermarket might be viewed as a place visited by individuals to overcome boredom in various residences.

From the above, the Target is considered similarly both by children and parents in the sense that it offers a facility to access items for personal use. However, their needs seem different given that kids are interested in toys, while parents focus on food, medicine, and other items. It is also indicated that the presence of a playing space at the Target outlet is a major attraction to both parents and children.


Shopping outlets are an important part of the society. They avail various items that people require for routine activities. Thus, it is not surprising that many customers visit such facilities. Based on the paper, convenience, price, hygiene, and quality of items are among the factor that consumers assess before buying products. Proximity is also a significant factor that influenced shoppers. As a supermarket, it emerges that Target avails various products and services to consumers. It also can be stated that one thing means different things to various people. For instance, children perceive the entity as a playground, while young people and adults see it as a place to rest temporarily, as well as to buy coffee and various items for personal use. It is concluded that retail outlets play an important role towards satisfying the needs of customers.

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