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Indie vs. Chain: Shopping Habits by Personality Type

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The Main Streets in vacation and resort towns, like Newport (in Rhode Island), Martha’s Vineyard (in Massachusetts), and Venice Beach (in California), are lined with small, eclectic, and colorfully painted independent stores. Some of these stores sell beach trinkets, little seashells creatively painted and glued together into messages of love and friendship, or keepsakes with the town’s name on them. The magic of these independent stores is quickly lost, however, when someone needs to find a Walmart.

Chain stores like Walmart and Target, along with wholesale distributors like Costco and BJ’s, have become essential for many people. Unlike small independent stores, chain stores cater to everyone’s needs; they offer a one-stop shop for groceries, office and pet supplies, toys, clothes and jewelry, and even furniture. Their convenience appeals to many people, although their appeal isn’t universal. While the convenience and value found at these stores is attractive to many (and can certainly save money), others still prefer the personal touches of an independent store, especially when looking for specialty items or something a little different.

While there are certainly practical (and financial) reasons to choose one type of store over another, we wanted to know if personality differences play a role in one’s preference for chain stores or independent ones, so we asked our readers if they agreed with the statement “You dislike shopping at chain stores and prefer independent ones.”

Agreement with “You dislike shopping at chain stores and prefer independent ones.”

The data showed that Intuitive types were more likely than Observant types to patronize independently-owned stores. Personality types with the Prospecting trait were also more likely to agree than their Judging-type counterparts. There was a small difference along the Identity traits, with Assertive types agreeing slightly more than Turbulent types.


Agreement with “You dislike shopping at chain stores and prefer independent ones.”

Diplomats and Analysts (53% and 52% agreeing)

Not showing any strong preference for either chain retailers or independent ones, the Intuitive Roles – Diplomats and Analysts – were nevertheless the highest-scoring groups. The slightly higher percentage of Diplomats and Analysts who agreed (53% and 52%, respectively) reflects their appreciation for novelty and their need for self-expression, although these personality types may also be motivated by political, environmental, or social reasons.

Diplomats, having the Feeling trait, may choose to shop at an independent store for altruistic rather than personal reasons. Choosing an “indie” store can be a proactive way for these socially-conscious and beneficent people to support their community or promote a local artist or entrepreneur. The quiet but passionate Mediator (INFP) (56% agreeing) was the most deliberate in their choice of independent stores over chains. One can imagine them choosing stores that promote environmental consciousness or raise awareness for a cause, for example.

The Thinking trait of Analyst personality types leads them to consider practical reasons such as cost, quality of service, and convenience when choosing where to shop. That’s not to say environmentally- or health-conscious Analysts won’t choose to shop at a farmer’s market for produce instead of a chain supermarket, but they are more likely to do so for the personal benefits of their decision rather than its social benefits.

Explorers and Sentinels (43% and 41%)

Explorers and Sentinels were less concerned with the differences between chain stores and independent ones (with 43% and 41% agreeing, respectively). Both personality groups are pragmatic; if a chain store is in a more convenient location or the product quality is superior to that of the independent store, they will choose the chain store.

For Sentinels, predictability is an important advantage that chain stores have over independent ones. These personality types also tend to be easily influenced by the prestige or status of a particular store or brand. For them, choosing a chain or an independent store may have more to do with their personal image and sense of achievement than with practicality or value. Whatever the reason for their choice, once Sentinels establish a favorite store or brand, they rarely change it.

Many Explorers enjoy setting trends and showing off their originality. These personality types are more likely to shop at chain stores where they can easily find popular brands, although they aren’t above scouring the small independent shops for rarer things or attractive bargains.


Agreement with “You dislike shopping at chain stores and prefer independent ones.”

There is very little variation among the Strategy groups. Split along the Identity aspect, the Assertive Strategies – Confident Individualists and People Masters – both had 51% agreement, while the the Turbulent Strategies – Constant Improvers and Social Engagers – scored a bit lower (47% and 45% agreeing, respectively). The Assertive Strategies’ higher rates of agreement may reflect the self-assurance and independence of the personality types within those groups; they don’t base their choice on the popularity of a store or a need to impress others with brands or labels. Personalities with a Turbulent Strategy may be more likely to choose where to shop based on the store’s popularity and reputation; chain stores likely attract their attention because of their marketing advantage over independent stores.


For most people, the preference of a chain store or an independent one has less to do with their personality than the availability and convenience that particular stores offer. Some may consciously choose to support a small business or local farmer, where their patronage can have a positive impact in their community. Some are more inclined to choose the most convenient place to find what they need, although quality and value are also primary considerations in their choice. And others could be much less predictable; chain stores have the appeal of brand names and trendy items, but their curiosity can also lead them into an independent store where they can find something that makes them stand out in a crowd.

Do you prefer to “shop independent,” or do you simply go where the best deals are? What influences your decision? Tell us about it in the comments section!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. If you have a minute to help us with our research, check out our Member Surveys.

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