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Center for Engagement and Community Development

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Rural Versus Supercenter

K-State Engagement E-News, January/February 2010 (PDF)

by Mindy Von Elling

Rural grocery stores like this one can often be seen in Western Kansas

Rural grocery stores like this one can often be seen in Western Kansas

As chain retail stores and supercenters become ever more popular, it is evident that the rise in popularity must be reviewed in terms of selling power compared to rural grocery stores. Since supercenters such as Wal-Mart and Super Target sell everything from groceries to apparel to home décor, the rise of the chain store and economic restructuring may be moving toward a more convenient outlet for rural shoppers.

Assistant professor of communications, Marcus Ashlock, along with Christopher Lavergne, instructor of communications, and Ben Champion, director of sustainability at Kansas State University, are researching why shoppers do or do not shop locally for groceries as opposed to shopping at supercenter chain stores. The study, "Why Buy Rural When I Can Get it On the Way Home," will include 16 rural grocery stores on the outskirts of eight urban areas: Kansas City, Kan., Lawrence, Topeka, Wichita, Dodge City, Hays, Hutchinson and Salina (two rural grocery stores outside each city).

The principle investigators of this study, as previously listed, are attempting to represent Western Kansas through their research by selecting cities with populations over 20,000, as anything higher than that would result in the study shifting toward Eastern Kansas. The main questions driving the study include determining the factors that develop the buying decisions of rural grocery consumers, discovering the advantages and disadvantages of buying locally and uncovering the advantages and disadvantages of shopping at big chain stores.