Target vs. Walmart: Where’s the best deal?

Getting kicked outta Walmart was never an item high on my bucket list. But after aiming my iPhone camera at a block of cheddar and telling the price tag to “say cheese”, both my bucket list and shopping list got a lot shorter that day.

The manager guy seemed nice enough when he asked what I was doing. I couldn’t help but state the obvious and tell him the truth.

target walmart

Me: I’m doing a price check experiment to see who’s got the best deals in Canada — Walmart or Target. I’m a savvy Canuck shopper, Sir.

Walmart Manager (aka “Sir”): We don’t allow this.

Me: You don’t allow savvy Canadian shoppers?

Walmart Manager: No, iPhones.

Me: But everyone has an iPhone, Sir. Well, except my husband — he went Android.

Walmart Manager: No, I meant photos. We’re a little touchy with Target now opening across Canada.

Me: Oh, I was just at the new Target and live Tweeted the grand opening. Super fun! They sell pretty designer scarves and strange mullet skirts. But they don’t have a lot of cheese stocked yet, so I think you’re OK. Look, here’s the photo.

Walmart Manager: You should probably go. Please, no more pictures.

Me: So asking for a managerial selfie is outta the question? This cheese backdrop would look lovely on my blog. […as I walk out of Walmart]

I got a slight ‘case of the sads’ when I exited Walmart. Not because I got busted for snooping and snapping price tags, but ’cause after doing a Squawkfox-style price check experiment I couldn’t totally agree with the Canuck media’s review of the non-existent price war between Target and Walmart.

target canada

Spot the Canuck stuff at Target Canada

The National Post reported that the “two retailers had an almost identical tally at the cash register on a basket of 29 items” while The Globe and Mail cited a survey that said “Target Canada prices are 0.2 per cent higher than Walmart’s”.

shopping carts

Really? Well, not on my basket of stuff. Do these survey monkeys (AKA “people”) not have kids? Or use coupons? Or care about the awesome that is the Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP)? Do they like mullet skirts and wear pretty designer scarves? Umm, do these people drink coffee?

The answer for choosing between, and ultimately consumerism-ing at, either Target or Walmart really depends on what you need to purchase, what you want to buy, and how you like to shop. The pros and cons of each store can often go beyond price — and this is the BIG POINT the newspapers missed. Coffee break, anyone?

Here’s how to decide if you’re on team red (Target) or team blue (Walmart).

Target Canada vs. Walmart Canada: Where’s the deal?

I have three simple rules when I comparison shop on Squawkfox. They are:

Rule 1: Compare items of the same size and brand.
Rule 2: Use regular priced items. No sales allowed!
Rule 3: Don’t get caught photographing price tags (sigh).

These rules came in handy when I blogged Is Costco really worth it? and Are you getting gouged at Value Village? Flunking Rule 3 by getting busted in Walmart was a little awful, but that’s not stopping me from reporting my price check findings to you. 🙂

After shopping a basket of 30 items under the categories of Grocery, Personal Care, and Baby, I found these results:

Grocery: It’s a TIE

walmart target prices

milk prices

Bottom Line: On a random basket of 14 grocery items, Walmart is the clear *cough* winner with a whopping $1.35 in savings. I’ll give the Canuck media and survey monkeys a pass on this one since grocery items are indeed equally priced at both stores.

Personal Care: Advantage Target

target walmart shopping list

purex toilet paper

old spice

tampax tampons


Bottom Line: Stock up on girlie products, laundry detergent, deodorant, and toilet paper at Target ’cause the savings range from 4.55% to nearly 30% when compared to the same stuff at Walmart.

Baby Items: Advantage Walmart

walmart canada

pampers diapers

baby formula

Bottom Line: Babies are expensive little human beings. If you have one or more, do your wallet a solid by shopping at Walmart where disposable diapers, formula, and baby cereals cost up to 33% less than at Target. How did the media miss these stellar savings?

target walmart prices

Bottom Line: If you’ve got a kiddlet or toddler in tow you’d save nearly 6% on a $200 shopping cart by skipping Target and hitting up Walmart.

target stores

Bottom Line: If you’re livin’ a child-free lifestyle head over to Target where you’ll save 2.67%, that’s a staggering $3.82, on groceries and personal care items.

Reasons to shop at Target

There are advantages to shopping at Target beyond basic grocery prices. I can’t believe I just wrote that, but after shopping for reals at the red retailer I discovered why some shoppers say this store is so special. The price-crunching survey monkeys and media missed these points!

Designer Collaborations

A Missoni zigzag pattern crochet dress will cost ya $2,540 at, the “luxury fashion destination” for all the big designers. But skip the glittery glitz and score a “Missoni for Target” designer collaboration dress for $40, and you’re wearing the famed designer for $2,500 less! Plus you can still afford to eat. And pay rent. And maybe buy a matching pair of strappy sandals?

Over the years Target has built highly successful collaborations with top designers Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, and Phillip Lim (just to name a few) to create consumer frenzies online and instore. Scoring a few fun and affordable fashions under a big designer brand is a huge reason to shop at Target over Walmart — mostly ’cause you ain’t wearing Wu from Walmart.

vera neumann target

vera target scarf

The local Target didn’t stock any super fancy designer labels on my visit, but they did shelve these stunning scarves by American artist Vera Neumann. Sold under the “Vera for Target” brand and priced at $19.99 a piece in both Canada and the U.S., I couldn’t help but buy TWO of these gorgeous scarves for myself and one for my sister-in-law. I also bought milk. So Target wins.

Gilligan O'Malley Bra

Gilligan O'Malley Panty

Target also wins for selling unique and interesting clothing some would argue is of higher quality than Walmart. These pretty Gilligan & O’Malley panties sell for only $5 in Canada and the U.S. (a panty steal), and when paired with the matching bra for $16.99 you’ve got a Monet-inspired ensemble costing far less then the stuff sold at leading lingerie stores. And yes, I had a little panty raid and picked up a few pairs for my sister-in-law too. So Target wins again. 🙂

Target’s 5% REDCard?

Target Canada is pushing hard for consumers to sign up for their REDCard Debit or REDCard RBC MasterCard loyalty products. The draw for frequent shoppers is an instant 5% off most Target purchases.

Target REDcard

The catch with these no annual fee cards is the $30 hit to your chequing account if you attempt to debit without sufficient funds, and the 19.99% MasterCard interest rate if you carry a balance — both will erode your 5% savings fast.

A lovely store layout

It’s hard to put a value on something called “shopping experience” since it doesn’t discount the final purchase price at checkout, but I think Target should win some points for giving consumers a more upscale “feeling” than Walmart.

Target shoes

First of all, Target’s fitting rooms are generously sized with ample mirrors showing you every darn angle. There’s also a “Family Fitting Room” which is awesome if you’ve got a squirmy toddler in need of togs or require additional floor space to fit a stroller. Most moms and dads would agree this is a HUGE plus!

Target’s shopping aisles are far wider than Walmart’s — I wanted to measure with an actual measuring tape (and I would have) but I’m trying my best to not get kicked outta both stores, people! But yeah, Target’s grocery lanes don’t give me the cramped feeling I experience at Walmart.

Starbucks, please!

I’m not one to shop and dine under one roof unless I’m surviving a trip to IKEA, but being able to down a tasty Starbucks Tall enroute to home is a bit of a Target draw for me.


While Starbucks IS tasty and Target is kinda fun, you’ll save a fortune by making your Frappuccinos at home.

Make a Starbucks Frappuccino for $0.32


Make a Starbucks Frappuccino for $0.32

This homemade Frappuccino recipe tastes like Starbucks, but costs 92% less.

Read More »

Also, buying an Egg McMuffin at Walmart is a little sad. Those tasty muffins can be toasted at home for 65% less.

Make a healthier McDonald's Egg McMuffin for 65% less

Food, Saving

Make a healthier McDonald's Egg McMuffin for 65% less

A fun and easy recipe for making a homemade Egg McMuffin. The photos are fun.

Read More »

And don’t tell me McDonald’s serves a superior cuppa to Starbucks. I’ve tasted both brews, and since this is my bloggy blog, I’m declaring Starbucks the coffee winner and a plus for shopping at Target.

Reasons to shop at Walmart

I can’t believe no one besides bloggers have written about these awesome reasons to shop at Walmart over Target.

Walmart honours “The SCOP”

I asked my favourite coupon expert and blogging buddy Cassie Howard (AKA Mrs. January) why she’s such a big fan of Walmart. She says it’s all about “The SCOP”.

“SCOP – Scanning Code of Practice. If an item $10 or under scans incorrectly at the cash register, you get it FREE! If it’s more than $10, you get $10 off. Most stores in Canada adhere to this policy but not Target.” — Cassie Howard, Mrs. January

The official name for what money bloggers tend to call “The SCOP” is the Retail Council of Canada’s Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code. This code is an amazing thing if you care about consumer protection, want to pay the tagged price for your goods, and don’t want to be overcharged for incorrectly scanned goods at checkout.

Over the years I’ve used “The SCOP” to score mis-scanned items for free and have done my bit to share this neat bit of consumer advocacy with you guys. In The Definitive Guide: 22 Ways to get a discount on anything (part two) I told ya how to get your groceries for free by spotting scanner price errors at checkout using this code.

Since Walmart voluntarily follows “The SCOP” and Target does not, let’s agree with Cassie and deem Walmart a shopping win for consumers.

Coupon Overage

Another big reason Mrs. January (AKA Cassie Howard) shops at Walmart over Target is for this thing called coupon overage. She says Target does not accept coupon overage, “which is what makes Walmart so awesome.”

“Overage = Your coupon value is more than the cost of the item. For example, you have a $2 coupon for a $1 bottle of shampoo. You get $1 in overage that can be applied to your purchase or given to you in cash. Only Walmart and Giant Tiger give overage [in Canada].” — Cassie Howard, Mrs. January

Here’s the Target Canada Coupon Policy — the comments on Cassie’s blog are from experienced couponers and the shared knowledge is very helpful.

To learn how to maximize your coupons at Walmart or any Canadian retailer, do check out Mrs. January. She’s in the know when it comes to price matching, stacking, and all the other coupon lingo that goes with extreme couponing.

So where am I going with this?

There’s more to basic pricing when it comes to consumerism-ing at Walmart or Target. Those with tiny tots (AKA babies) could see some serious savings by opting to purchase Walmart’s disposable diapers, formula, and baby cereals. Walmart shoppers can also benefit from better coupon policies and free goods by spying price scanning errors with “The SCOP.”

The Mullet Skirt

Target shoppers can save around 5.4% across a basket of personal care items, and nearly 30% on toilet paper alone. Become a frequent shopper and sign up for the Target REDCard and nab an additional 5% savings on most items. Target shoppers are easy to spot ’cause they wear nicer underwear under their mullet skirts and fancy designer dressers.

The bottom line for choosing to shop at any store is to do your own price check experiment to see if what you purchase on a regular basis is a fair price. Just don’t get kicked out of the store for snapping pictures of price tags in a quest to sleuth savings — it’s a bit of a bummer if you run a popular money blog. Seriously.


Your two cents:

  1. Thomas June 7th, 2013

    My wife swears that Walmart is cheaper but that Target is cleaner but funny she never really goes to either.

  2. Donna June 11th, 2013

    Recently, Wal-Mart pleaded guilty to criminal charges of dumping hazardous fertilizers and chemicals in California and Missouri. Wal-Mart must pay $81.6 million in fines for violating the Clean Water Act and other E.P.A. regulations. That fine is less than one tenth of one percent of the profits Wal-Mart made in 2012 alone. So, after criminally dumping chemicals in 16 California counties for years, Wal-Mart can simply write off the fine as a cost of doing business.

    Kind of makes you think twice if saving a few dollars is worth supporting this kind of ignorant, arrogant behaviour.

  3. Angela June 13th, 2013

    Agree with World Citizen. Where are your values Kerry? People pay for cheap prices through corporations paying their workers peanuts … then low paid workers complain that they need to shop at cheap places because they don’t earn enough to live. What kind of society do you want your child to grow up in? When Zellers closed down in my area and Target took over, the workers at Target were paid less than Zellers and they lost benefits. I’m on a very low income too but I shop at local farmers markets, second hand stores and am really conscious about where I spend my money so that as much as possible it stays in the community supporting local people – not large corporations with dismal records on workers conditions, rights and the environment (mother nature also pays a price for cheap stuff). How you spend your money says a lot about your values and what kind of society you want to live in – what are your values Kerry?

  4. Carole June 20th, 2013

    After the Zellers in my area closed because Target didn’t want this store, all the workers lost their jobs. Then in the news Target let 50,000 Zeller’s employees go without their jobs. I will not ever shop Target. As for Walmart, it too is an american store and I stay out of it.

  5. Hollie Pollard July 18th, 2013

    You know Kerry I shop both, and photograph inside both with no issues ever here in Toronto. I blog at least once a month about the stores so much so the Agency Walmart deals with asks me what I am writing about.

    For me it is a toss up, but the advantage for now is going to Walmart as it is a 5 minute walk away but for Gluten Free heads up goes to Target. By the way since you are moving hit me up for the best places to buy Gluten free locally.

  6. Passerby August 18th, 2013

    American here, just thought I’d share some tidbits about these companies operate South of the border (I’ve worked in both and still shop in Target):
    a) Neither care about photographs in the US – I openly take pictures of products on shelves (usually to text “Do we need this?”) and never gotten so much as a raised eyebrow.
    b) Walmart doesn’t practice coupon overage here. I’m crazy jealous right now.
    c) Our Walmarts do the exact same kind of “low” pricing. “We’re the cheapest in town! By almost 3 whole cents.”

    Thanks for pointing out the difference in ambiance/style between the two Big Boxes. It’s an impossible thing to quantify, but it makes a huge difference to me in where to shop.

  7. Barbara September 21st, 2013

    How do these stores compare to the Real Canadian Superstore and Joe Fresh? You know your life has changed when you shop where you can get your food and clothing at the same stop.

  8. Anthony September 24th, 2013

    Target definitely. Great designs, adequate prices, redcard savings, and I support their decision to not accept coupon overage. I know people think stores make money off of coupons, which is half true, but the reality is that there are people who abuse that right to overage and end up scamming the system with multiple coupons and coming back later to return the items demanding full price. Youch! Another thing this article did not mention was Target’s willingness to match prices with competitors or their friendly service

  9. Etal September 25th, 2013

    Very well researched and written. There are some differences between Canada and the U.S.. I can’t speak for Target, but as a Walmart cashier in the U.S., I can tell you this:
    1.) Obviously, in the U.S. we don’t participate in the Canadian SCOP program. We do have something different called Price Validity. If an item rings up different from the shelf price, the cashier will void out the scanned item and override the scan with the correct price. Up to $3.00 more will also be automatically deducted, but not to exceed the price of the item.
    2.) Walmart in the U.S. does Price Matching on competitor’s currently active ads. We have copies of the ads, so the customer doesn’t need to bring the ad in. Certain restrictions apply. We do not match internet ads, has to be an advertisment with a specific price (not 30% off), and match the same unit type (if we sell oranges for EACH we cannot price match a competitor that sells their oranges PER POUND). The ad item must match regarding size, type, brand, etc. Levi jeans are not the same as Wrangler jeans. However, generic type items, like apples, cuts of meat, eggs, etc. can be matched. If a competitor calls their New York Strip steak Rancher’s New York steak — it’s the same thing. There was no special recipie or process to distinct it from other New York steaks.
    christel June 4th, 2013 @ Claire: actually, the USA does not have an official language.

    Yes, America on a federal level does not have an official language, however, almost all of the individual states have had English as their official language for decades and a few over a hundred years, which is honored and recognized by the federal government as the state’s right to enforce.

  10. Kat October 8th, 2013

    I only shop at stores that I believe to be ethical (I try to do my best to research before hand). I don’t need tons of clothes, of course, but I browse consignment and thrift stores (Salvation Army or the Mennonite Center), and I eat simply (vegan with celiacs disease – but I don’t eat many packaged foods, aside from frozen veggies if they count. I make my own hummus, and make shakes and smoothies). I make home made toiletries, often – use olive oil for skin and for hair masks, and a good quality not-tested on animals shampoo. I buy way less than most people, but I make sure that if I buy something I either REALLY need it – or it’s a rare treat. I love music, so if I have a little left over, I purchase new strings or sheet music for my violin. Luckily, most of my favourite things are low cost or free: studying and reading, walking in the woods, bird watching, listening to music, watching shows on Project Free TV. 🙂 I also love the creative spirit that you get with thrift store shopping for things. The only ‘box’ store I shop at is Ikea, but I’ve never heard anything negative about how they treat their workers.

  11. Mark November 26th, 2013

    I will gladly pay the price difference at Target. The Walmart were I live does not open all the cash registers when it’s busy.

    The one day I walked up to the head cashier and asked her to get some one to put the groceries I had my basket away. When she asked why because there was no way I was going to stand in the line up and especially when half the registers were closed.

    Walmart needs to get rid of the “greeters” and get some cashiers.

  12. Raymond November 29th, 2013

    Wal-Mart gets a lot of attention for low pay. It seems that Target pays exactly the same (Wal-Mart pays slightly more for basic jobs and slightly less for managerial jobs). Other companies on 10 least-paying companies: Macy, Starbucks, McDonalds, Sears, Kroger.

    By the way, when I lived in Houston, Wal-Mart was winning over Target hands down (better prices, better choices, great fresh food). After shopping at both, I stopped going to Target.

  13. Michael D. December 23rd, 2013

    Interesting article; I did a google search for a comparison while doing a last minute soul-search before Christmas trying to figure out what kind of gift card to get for a pleasant neighbour. More curious about selection than prices but the article was interesting.

    I’m more intrigued by the manager’s reaction to the camera phone. I can see his point, to be honest. Not from a standpoint of not permitting people to comparison shop, but from a general and growing fatigue and aversion to cameras in general. I remember very keenly being made to read Orwell in high school in 1986 or so, and seeing the movie version of ‘1984’ and thinking the Big Brother stuff was a lot of paranoia. What is more chilling now is that we are cutting off our own privacy so willingly.

    I was in a local bargain store this summer because you can sometimes get rare used books there for dirt cheap. Someone had a video camera set up outside. I had an irrational fear of being photographed shopping there for some reason, despite the fact they were filming some skit or something else that had nothing to do with the shoppers coming and going.

    I think this ongoing fatigue and nervousness around cameras will get worse the more aggressive – or perhaps oblivious – device users are to those around them. That includes people texting while driving, iPod users on public transit that can be heard from 30 thirty feet away, cell-phone gabbers, and yes, avid photographers who shoot pictures in public despite the discomfort and sensibilities of others.

  14. Wendy Croom December 26th, 2013

    Google “Bangladesh tradegy” and then repost.

  15. Ed Saab March 5th, 2014

    target Canada has no future. I’m not wasting my time going there. Empty shelves, rude management, no stock, no service. I mean, if you advertise something in the flyer and it is not in the store why to advertise it? me and two other customers got stock at the same time with the same excuse.

  16. Denise July 29th, 2014

    You should have mentioned if the person gets Target card they actually getting a better deal with the baby products as well.

  17. Kix May 21st, 2015

    My two cents? I’d gladly pay more to shop at Target based on the fact that there are always less people. Grocery shopping makes me cry when it is crowded. If you have social anxiety… Just avoid Walmart.

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