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Immigrant grocery-shopping behavior: ethnic identity versus accessibility

  • Economics


This paper contributes to the ongoing debate in the ‘new’ economic geography over the dialectic between the cultural and the economic, and in which the study of the geography of consumption is a prime example. The consumer behavior of culturally distinct immigrants is an intriguing and complex economic and cultural inquiry. In this paper we explore the grocery-shopping behavior of suburban middle-class Chinese immigrants in Toronto, where the group’s ethnic economy has become full-fledged. Using a mixed approach combining focus groups and logistic modeling, we examine the preferences of Chinese immigrants between the fast-growing Chinese supermarkets and competing mainstream supermarket chains. Attention is focused upon the interplay of ethnic identity and accessibility in determining store patronage. The findings suggest a stronger effect of ethnic affinity on immigrants’ choice of shopping venue than that of economic rationality. Grocery shopping, a most mundane and taken-for-granted activity, is practiced with sociocultural meanings by immigrants, and the social use of ethnic shopping spaces indicates that immigrants are not only consumers in ethnic shopping places but coactors in producing the unique ethnic retail environment.

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