What is the Difference Between a Grocery Store and a Supermarket?

Grocery stores, supermarkets, and supercenters. They all seem like the same thing, don’t they? But, on the contrary, there is a difference between grocery store and supermarket.

Grocery stores are exclusive to specific items. They are designed to suit a target population or demographic and region. E.g., Mexican and Asian grocery stores. Check out our guide on the different grocery store sections to better understand their layout.

On the other hand, supermarkets have variety. They sell what grocery stores offer and more. That includes a delicatessen, cheeses, a butcher section with freshly cut meat, seafood, and other exotic items.

Overall, the difference between both comes down to size. Supermarkets are larger than grocery stores and have wider varieties of items.

To learn more about the difference between grocery store and supermarket, keep reading this article. You’ll find explanations for frequently asked questions about stores.

Why are grocery stores called supermarkets?

It’s easy for people to interchangeably use the grocery store and supermarket terms. This is because supermarkets also sell what grocery stores sell.

So most times, you could say you’re going to the supermarket when in fact, you’re just going to a grocery store. Most of the stores you’ve been calling “grocery stores” aren’t even grocery stores. For example, Walmart and Meijer.

Walmart and Meijer are supercentres, not grocery stores. However, Walmart has Neighborhood Markets that count as grocery stores.

Walmart supercentre building and parking lot view

A supercentre sells what supermarkets sell. But they also sell clothes, medicine, electronics, flowers, bakery foods, furniture, personal or body care items. You can also call supercentres “superstores” or “hypermarkets.”

Also, supercenters are usually broken down into departments. That means a department can have grocery items while another department contains electronics, and they will all exist under one roof.

Meanwhile, other stores like Kroger, Publix, and Safeway are supermarkets. Whole Foods Market is also a supermarket, even though it looks like a grocery store. You can read our post on why Whole Foods Market is so popular to learn more about it.

Stores like Trader Joe’s are grocery stores. They don’t sell much beyond grocery items. So most times, while you’re cussing at the store for not having what you want, these tiny details could be the reason.

Because it’s a grocery store, it’s unlikely to have those unique items you’re looking for. E.g., bedsheets, bed frames, curtains, etc. Also, most grocery stores sell items based on demographic data. So if there’s little demand for those items, you’d mostly not find certain things there.

Can you call a supermarket a grocery store?

You may call a supermarket a grocery store because it has a grocery section inside it. But you can’t call a grocery store a supermarket.

In other words, both of them are grocery stores, but you can only call one a supermarket. Supermarkets are larger, and so are their product inventories.

You could go to a grocery store and see that they only have four brands of tissue paper. E.g., Kleenex, Angel Soft, Charmin, and Windsoft. But, on the other hand, a supermarket could house up to 15 or more brands of that one item.

Are grocery stores cheaper than supermarkets?

Supermarkets are cheaper than grocery stores. The reason is that they have a low price margin. E.g., supermarkets like Aldi. By low price margin, we mean that they acquire their goods at a cheap price and then sell them off at almost the same price value.

Long receipt surrounded by grocery items

So most times, it’s recommended that you shop at a supermarket if you want to cut costs. Grocery stores don’t have that luxury as they offer fewer selections. They don’t get as much profit or customers as grocery stores do. So they have to sell their products at high prices to make their profit.

Supermarkets also have more sales and discounts than grocery stores do. Grocery stores usually run sales or discounts when their products are close to expiry or Use By dates. They do this to avoid throwing away food that could pollute the environment. Grocery stores also run sales to get rid of overstocked items due to poor inventory management.

Grocery store vs. supermarket: Which is better?

A supermarket is better than a grocery store in terms of variety and pricing. Supermarkets are one-stop options. That means you won’t have to stop multiple times at different stores to shop.

For example, brown rice and tomato puree are on your shopping list. You go to a grocery store to buy them, and you find that the store has only brown rice, but it doesn’t have the puree. You’d have to go to another store to find it, which is stressful.

While variety is helpful, it can quickly become an inconvenience. For example, it’s easy to get lost in a supermarket, especially if you’ve never been there before. Since they’re so large, you could spend a long time finding what you need without the assistance of an employee. In this case, a grocery store is better.

A grocery store has fewer selections, making your shopping decisions easier. You just need to go to the right aisle, grab an item and check it out.

Overall, the choice of which store is better depends on your preferences.

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