Where Is Wholesale Club Shopping the Most Popular?

November 21, 2023

As the holiday season approaches, grocery shopping will likely be on many consumers’ to-do lists as they prepare for holiday dinners and gift-giving celebrations. In an effort to increase value and convenience, many consumers in 2023 are choosing to shop at wholesale clubs such as BJ’s Wholesale, Costco, or Sam’s Club. In fact, due to significantly inflating food costs in recent years, 25% of consumers are choosing to buy in bulk more often in 2023 than in previous years. This means that as the holiday shopping season approaches, wholesale club warehouses are likely to see increased foot traffic in the coming weeks.

Young couple shops in the produce section of a grocery store

So, to learn more about club store shoppers in the U.S., we examined data from all 50 U.S. states to find out which states are home to the highest percentage of wholesale club shoppers.

Wholesale Club Shopping by State

When analyzing the data by state, the states with the highest percentage of wholesale club shoppers are in the western region of the continental U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. In fact, Hawaii has the highest percentage of club store shoppers, at a whopping 24%. Hawaii’s Costco locations make up most of the top 10 busiest Costco locations in the world, with its Honolulu location boasting the number one spot. 

Montana has the second highest percentage, with 17%, and Alaska closely follows with 16%. So, what do the top three states for wholesale club shoppers have in common? Not only are larger families more common in states like Alaska and Hawaii, fueling the need for bulk buying, but consumers in these states are at a distance from most major grocery distribution centers. This can lead to increased supply chain issues and slower distribution of goods to faraway locations, driving up costs and selling prices. With the added distribution costs of goods to places like Hawaii or Alaska (or remote areas like those in Montana), shoppers are more likely to buy in bulk at wholesale club stores to get the most bang for their buck. Plus, large wholesale chains like Costco can maintain competitive pricing in areas like Hawaii despite the added distribution and labor costs, making these stores popular choices among value-conscious shoppers.

So which states have the lowest percentages of club store shoppers?

Where Bulk Buying is Less Common

While it makes sense for states like Hawaii to boast the largest percentages of club store shoppers, here are the states that trail behind. With just 6% of their population being regular wholesale club visitors, Maine, Massachusetts, and Texas are at the bottom of the list. Also seeing some of the lowest percentages of wholesale shoppers are Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York, among others.

Maine currently has the lowest percentage of wholesale club store shoppers in the country, but is that because Maine’s residents prefer traditional supermarkets or other alternatives? Maine has the smallest average family size in the country, which may be why so many residents aren’t choosing to buy in bulk as household sizes tend to be smaller in Maine than in other states like Hawaii. Furthermore, Maine shoppers tend to choose local grocery stores or national concept grocery chains like Trader Joe’s. However, consumer demand for warehouse club stores in Maine is increasing.

Recently, the first Costco location in Maine opened its doors, adding to the state’s number of wholesale clubs. With just four wholesale clubs in Maine, it makes sense that this state would have the lowest percentage of club store shoppers in the country, but with Costco’s recent expansion, Maine’s numbers could increase in 2024. As value shopping across the country increases, foot traffic to wholesale club stores will likely rise in states like Maine and possibly everywhere else as 2024 approaches.

The Wholesale Club Takeover

In recent years, wholesale club stores have seen immense growth and will continue to grow since the 2020 pandemic brought about a surge of new members to these stores. As consumers grappled with pandemic restrictions, they sought to stock up on necessities, flocking to warehouse stores everywhere. Since then, club memberships have continued to increase as bulk shopping takes over as a new, major trend in grocery shopping.

Club stores are now gaining grocery market share and competing with traditional supermarkets for consumers’ attention. As people continue to grapple with high inflation in 2023 and beyond, an increasing number of shoppers will likely choose to buy in bulk at club stores, focusing on food staples and other necessities to stretch their dollars. In 2023, wholesale club shopping is on the rise everywhere, so it will be interesting to see which states will gain more club store shoppers in 2024 as wholesalers continue to expand.

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