Target vs. Walmart: Here's Why Shoppers Prefer Target

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Target vs Walmart AI-generated image
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Locked On

It's hard to beat Walmart where it matters most: low prices. But Walmart's main competitor, Target, has still cultivated a passionate group of shoppers — many of whom go to great lengths to avoid that bigger, bluer, cheaper rival across town. Target isn't bulletproof (a $5 million settlement for overcharging customers was a cringe-worthy incident) but for core shoppers, there's little Target can do to lose their allegiance. 

Here are 10 reasons devotees say they'll always choose Target over Walmart.

Four Aisles in the Kitchen Section of a Target Store, Numerous Coffee Makers and Other Kitchen Appliances Organized Neatly on the Shelves
Angel H./Yelp

1. Target Is Easier on the Eyes

There's a lot Target does better than Walmart in this category, shoppers say: The aisles are wider, the shelves better organized, the lighting less harsh, the store punctuated with whimsical design touches (hello, giant red balls). Even the color red is associated with youth, energy and excitement (Walmart's signature blue, on the other hand, better conveys dependability and strength). 

Target also continues to innovate here, with a 2017 redesign that featured more upscale fixtures, polished concrete floors, and sleek wood.

A Self-Checkout at a Target Store, Many Types of Gum for Sale on the Top Left and Red Reusable Bags on the Top Right
Malia H./Yelp

2. Walmart Isn't Much Cheaper

Dedicated Target shoppers insist they aren't spending much more at Target than they would at Walmart. Indeed, our comparison of drugstore pricing revealed that Walmart beat Target in some areas, but not all. Target devotees also point to the Circle program, which offers discounts throughout the store, and the 5% REDcard discount as other ways to narrow any savings gap.

A Large Aqua Geometric Native American Style Accent Pillow on a Shelf At a Target Store
Leah E./Yelp

3. Shoppers Say Target Has More Style ...

Who knew a big-box store could be stylish? Target has cultivated an image of "cheap chic," in part through a renewed focus on strong in-house brands

Shoppers also love its collaborations with high-profile designers: For instance, when it teamed up with women's clothing brand Lilly Pulitzer in 2015, it touched off a Black Friday-style frenzy; more recently, home accents from uber-popular HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines have popped up on shelves. 

Acquisitions of higher-end brands like Modcloth and Bonobos have been a mixed bag for Walmart, which sold Modcloth just two years after it bought the brand but, five years after buying Bonobos launched a men's line of the brand in Walmart stores.

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Women's Clothing Section in a Target Store, Two Dressed Mannequins in the Foreground, Many Racks of Clothing for Sale
Malia H./Yelp

4. ... And Higher-Quality Items

One consequence of Target's effort to position itself as "stylish" — and Walmart's effort to continually win the price wars — is shoppers' perception that Walmart offers lower-quality merchandise, especially when it comes to soft goods such as clothing and tech merchandise such as TVs. 

The New York Times has even asked whether Walmart "is too cheap for its own good," noting that customers mostly see it as a place to buy basics, not aspirational items for which quality matters more. 

But it's worth noting that both Walmart and Target have plenty of entries on our list of store-brand foods that are just as good or better than the name brands.

Related: 17 Insider Secrets for Big Savings at Target

A Red Plastic Cart Filled with a Few Items At a Target Store
Frankie R./Yelp

5. Target's Price-Matching Policy Is Better

Walmart used to have a robust price-matching policy, but that seems to have changed. The chain axed ad-based matching at hundreds of stores starting in 2016 and has a policy saying it now matches only prices from Competitor-advertised prices are specifically excluded, and it killed a Savings Catcher feature on the Walmart app that refunded big price differences after a purchase. 

Target, on the other hand, will still match prices shown in competitors' ads and prices from more than 27 online competitors, including Amazon.

Customer Service Counter At a Target Store, on the Right, Clothing Aisles on the Left
Marie M./Yelp

6. Walmart Still Lags on Customer Service

Shoppers say it's easier to find reliable help at Target than Walmart. And there's data to back that up: Walmart is perennially below Target in the American Customer Service Index, based on annual interviews with 70,000 customers. But it's worth noting that Walmart has made high-profile efforts to close the gap, including beefed-up online associate training and management academies

It's just that it hasn't worked. Target was in the top 100 of Customer-Service All-Stars of 2023 — Walmart wasn't.

Door to Family Restroom At a Target Store, 'Family Restroom' Sign on the Left
Lou C./Yelp

7. Target Is More Family-Friendly

Carts with molded red plastic chairs that can accommodate bigger kids are game-changers for parents who don't want to drag around reluctant tots, and family restrooms are a reliable, easy-to-find fixture at the front of the store (Walmart, if it has family restrooms at all, often hides them in the back). 

Target's line of kids' clothes, Cat & Jack, even has pieces specifically designed for children with disabilities or special needs.

A Row of Red Plastic Target Shopping Carts Outside a Target Store, Selective Focus of Left

8. A Reputation for the Mistreatment of Workers Dogs Walmart

Few companies have had more turbulent worker relations than Walmart, which has faced accusations of low wages, poor working conditions, anemic benefits, and more over the past decade. The company was even accused of punishing workers for taking sick days

To Walmart's credit, it has boosted starting wages over the years — sometimes to match Target — while Target has been comparatively unscathed by similar controversies. 

While its wages are also low, workers have given the company high marks in other areas such as benefits, culture, and work environment.

Related: Horror Stories From Notoriously Toxic Workplaces

An Aisle in the Food Section At a Target, Peanut Butter, Spreads in the Right Foreground, Salad Dressings and Other Condiments in the Background Left, with a Red Shopping Cart
Leslie E./Yelp

9. Target Is a Go-To For Those Who Vote Blue

Target has certainly earned a reputation for being the more progressive big-box juggernaut — an image that can repel or attract shoppers depending on their outlook. Target took a high-profile stand during a transgender bathroom ban controversy, and earlier removed "boy" and "girl" labels from toy aisles in an effort to be more inclusive. 

Indeed, Target has higher net favorability among Democrats than Republicans (71 percent versus 53 percent, respectively) while the opposite is true for Walmart.

A Starbucks Coffee Inside a Target Store, Entrance Doors on the Left, Produce Section on the Background Right
John L./Yelp

10. One Word: Starbucks

While Walmart has relied on partnerships with fast-food mega-chains such as Subway and McDonald's, Target went another direction, partnering with Starbucks in 1999. Since then, the coffee giant has plopped a Starbucks café into more than 1,300 of the retailer's 1,909 stores. 

It may seem like a silly reason to choose one store over another, but many Target shoppers say they love being able to sip a latte while they browse Target's aisles — perhaps adding to the perception that shopping there is more of a fun escape, or even an "everyday luxury," much like Starbucks itself.

Related: 17 Things You Didn’t Know About Starbucks