The Red-State/Blue-State Divide Among Consumers

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that a nation as politically divided as the U.S. would split into two, very different, approaches to just about everything. And this is true of even that most American of pastimes: shopping.

A look at the data confirms it. The residents of red states and blue states behave as differently at the checkout counter as they do in the voting booth.


  • Folks in blue states spend a larger share of their dollars on beauty, footwear, and apparel.   Red states’ residents spend a larger share on entertainment, sports equipment, and automotive products.
  • In the red states, people spend a larger share of their dollars at mass merchants – and they treat these retailers as one-stop shops.  In general, they visit a fewer number of unique channels and retailers for their shopping needs compared to those in blue states.
  • Blue-state consumers spend a larger share of their dollars across different channels, including specialty stores, club, grocery, and off-price. 

These differences aren’t just a function of real-world retail locations. This isn’t just about the boutiques one finds in SoHo vs. the big boxes one finds in Shreveport. Red-staters and blue-staters shop differently even when it comes to e-commerce.

  • When shopping on the Web, red-state residents heavily over-index in photo and paper products.
  • Red-staters also over-index in appliances,  software, and mobile apps online.
  • When consumers in blue states shop online, they over-index in share of spend on jewelry and watches, gift cards, and online services.
  • Blue-state people tend to spend a higher share at high-end retail stores’ online sites, while red-state folks over-index at TV shopping networks’ online outlets.
  • Red-staters also over-index on the sites of mid-range department stores, home improvement stores,  and discount retailers.
  • Finally, blue-staters over-index for online purchases of grocery and gourmet food (although these numbers may be skewed because companies offering local delivery of these products tend to do so primarily in blue states).

Receipt Harvesting
How do we know about the red-state/blue-state divide among shoppers? We look at people’s receipts. Millions of them.

The NPD Group has been delivering retail and consumer insights and providing business solutions for decades. Now our latest solution, Checkout TrackingSM, looks at sales data on an even deeper, more individualized level.

Checkout Tracking data is based on the millions of receipts consumers send to us and our technology partner, Slice Intelligence. Those receipts yield detailed, item-level data about individual consumers across stores in all retail segments, both online and at brick-and-mortar, over time.

The result is an extraordinary level of insight into the relationships between brands and consumers – including preferences, behaviors, and more.

So not only can you see from what store someone in a red state prefers to buy her jeans, you can also know what else she bought on that shopping trip, what she ordered to eat on the drive home, and which matching blouse she ordered online the next day. And you can compare that information to details about someone else who bought the same jeans from a store in a blue state.

You can also use Checkout Tracking to look at the behaviors of important demographics. For example, if you’re in the pet food business, you might want to consider in-game advertising. It turns out Millennial female gamers spend more online dollars on pet supplies than other consumers. Or if you’re in the people food industry, you should consider how your restaurant’s popularity varies depending upon a customer’s mobile phone brand preference. .

All Politics Are Local
The lesson in the red-state/blue-state divide among consumers is that selling into anything other than the narrowest of niches is an increasingly difficult task.

Regionalism, not uniformity, is the norm. And even the most homogeneous regions include endless variations of individuals.

The wisest way to sell in today’s America is by targeting people literally where they live and selling to them, as much as possible, as individuals.

Years ago we called that direct marketing. Nowadays we just call it . . . marketing.

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