Back to School Shopping Showdown-Walmart vs Kmart

First, let me start by telling you about the challenge. I was asked by Walmart, to make a list of school supplies and buy the same list at Walmart, and the same list at a competitor store in my town, which is Kmart. The purpose? To see which store will cost less because Walmart claims the lowest prices around!

I openly admitted to the Walmart team that I had a feeling that Kmart would give them a good run for their money so I would be very interested (and shocked) to see the results myself.

I have two high school boys that don’t need much for high school when it comes to supplies. In fact, they only really need the basics so my shopping experience was short. I started by making the list of school supplies needed for the shopping trip. It consisted of:

  • 4 – 1 inch  binders
  • 4 pkgs of dividers
  • 4 pkgs of notebook paper (wide ruled)
  • 4 pkgs of mechanical pencils
  • 2 boxes of regular pencils
  • 2 pkgs of pens
  • 2 pkgs of highlighters
  • 2 pkgs of their favorite pens
  • 4 3 subject notebooks
  • 2 boxes of crayons (for Truett)

I took that list and divided it in half and went shopping.


Walmart has their school supplies section setup like always.  Bins in the middle of the major aisle as well as two whole aisles dedicated to back to school stuff.  I headed over and grabbed every single item on my list, no problems.   I get to check out, ring everything up myself because I’m using self-checkout (<–whoever thought of that is genius), and pay the total of $19.05! Heck yeah!  UNDER $20 bucks!


Kmart had 2 sections of school supplies. One right when you walk in, with mostly smaller children type of supplies, and the other one. I headed towards the back.  First of all, talk about slim pickins.  I was immediately disappointed that they had very little but what they did have was out in the middle of the aisle in bins so I started rummaging through for the items on my list.  I head to check out and I wait………and I wait some more……there are only two checkers and the lines are going out to the clothing section and curving around. 2 checkers on tax free weekend? Really?  This is why I use self-checkout at Walmart all the time.  Anyways, I finally get up there and watch the items pass through the scanner….with a slightly shocked looked on my face.  I NEVER expected Kmart’s prices to be as high as they were.  The grand total?  $38.57 WOW!  Shocked to say the least. I wanted to put everything back and head back to Walmart.

Walmart on the Left, Kmart on the Right

So let’s recap!

Walmart Back to School Shopping total was $19.05

Kmart’s Back to School Shopping total was  $38.57

That’s a difference of  ————————>$19.52

In case you’re wondering where the supply differences came in, here’s the breakdown of it.  I couldn’t find a big box of regular pencils at Kmart so I had to buy 2 smaller boxes to equal Walmart’s one big box.  I also couldn’t find any 24 count Crayola Crayons at Kmart (or any Crayons for that matter) so I had to buy the 16 ct Roseart ones.  The mechanical pencils were in two packages at Walmart but could only find bigger pkgs at Kmart so I had to buy one big, to equal Walmart’s two.  And finally, the 3 subject notebooks–Kmart only had one kind, Walmart had two. We chose the cheaper of the two at Walmart.  Even if Kmart had a lower price on their 3-subject notebooks, they still wouldn’t have beat Walmart’s price. Everything else was the same.

I actually like our Kmart a great deal and was saddened by the high prices.  I never expected to see almost a 50% difference. That is just crazy.    It was very hard for me not to just walk right out of there after having spent less than $20 at Walmart but I committed to the shopping comparison challenge and had to complete it.

So my questions for you are: Where do you buy YOUR school supplies at? And how much do you normally spend on school supplies?

Disclosure: As many of you know, I’m a participant in the Walmart Mom program.  Walmart compensated me for my time and efforts in tackling this shopping comparison challenge.  Opinions are my own, always have been, always will be…that’s just how I roll.

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  1. says

    That’s really impressive! I don’t shop at big box stores but that alone is worth considering. Plus the 25 cents solar power created Crayola crayons. You can’t beat that deal!

    I think it’s wonderful you did a comparison.

  2. says

    Fantastic post, Lori – love to see the differences you found.

    This doesn’t surprise me. I never go to Kmart – around here, they are NOT the place to go to get deals. But honestly, I rarely go to WalMart either because again, around here, they don’t have the stellar reputation they have elsewhere. I really wish WalMart execs would come to this area and look at their stores here – I think they’d be surprised at how much improvement is needed.

    However, I will say that WalMart, even around here, is famous for its low prices. I doubt anyone around here can beat them.

  3. says

    Walmart! Hands down. Prices – #1, but close Second is the feel of the store. We have 2 Supercenters within close driving distance and I like them both. We have a non-super center and its my favorite too.

    We have as many Kmarts within about the same driving distance as our Walmarts (no super centers though) but the closest one to me feels like a forgotten dump in a not-so good part of town. Y

    You usually won’t find me in a Kmart unless they are doing double coupons (like up to $2 that turns into $4 off). I’m so turned off from the store near me that I don’t pay much serious attention (when I do happen to look at) their ad in the Sunday paper. I just don’t want to even go in to that store. Kmart’s closest supercenter to me (last I knew) was probably about a 40min-1 hr drive.

    I live in Canton, Ohio. I hope Kmart reads this and does something to better their stores here ;)

  4. says

    I’m not at all surprised : ) I always shop at Walmart for back to school buying first. You really can’t beat their deals. Plus I love that all of the back to school is smack up front in our stores. I do go to Target to supplement for anything that we can’t find {our school supply lists for elementary & middle school are ginmorous sigh}

  5. says

    I always shop for back to school supplies at Wal-Mart with the exception that my son needed a 3″ binder that I purchsed from Office Max because I get a discount there from my employer. I’m not really sure how much I spend for back to school supplies but my best guess is around $30. My son is in the 5th grade and his school is very specific about items they need and they need quite a bit actually, tissues, highlighers, colored pencils, binders, paper, page protectors and dividers, dry erasers markers, folders, scissors, etc.

    I am always disappointed in the selection at K-Mart for anything really. I too feel that they have slim pickins so we rarely ever shop there for anything and I’m actually surprised that any K-Mart stores, especially the one in my town, survived the recession.

  6. says

    I split my back to school shopping between Walmart and Target and only spent about $40.00 total for a 2nd and 4th grader, I got great deals at both places. I am really not surprised about the fact that Walmart is so much cheaper and better stocked the Kmart.

  7. says

    wow! that’s quite a difference! I didn’t have many school supplies to buy for my 1st grader but I scored at Target in July when they had their special ‘teacher’ sale……I was able to buy a 24 count crayola box for .25 cents a piece! … I bought 12 of them:)

  8. says

    I’m a Walmart girl myself. They carry everything we need and have the best prices.
    We don’t have a self checkout at our Walmart. I don’t mind using self checkout but I do feel like I should get a few cents off for doing so.

    • A Cowboy's Wife says

      See, I see the self-checkout lanes as a convenient option for me. I don’t think I have ever had to wait in line for one so it’s so much faster for me to go through and do it myself and get out of the store. Plus, Truett likes to scan things and be my helper. :)

  9. says

    Walmart hands down has the BEST back to school prices but if I go anywhere else for them, I hit the sales at either Office Max or Staples. That said, Kmart can give Walmart a run for it’s money on a variety of other items but Walmart has a lock on “back to school”! ;D

  10. Lauralee Hensley says

    Usually about 50 percent of it’s done at Walmart and about 50 percent at Staples when Staples has some things on great sales to get you in the doors. I think they want you to get in the doors so you’ll start looking and wishing for the computers and printers they have there.

  11. Christina G. says

    I buy all of my school supplies at Walmart but I have to say I spend a bit more than $20 because I buy in BULK! I know my kids go through at least 10 boxes of crayons a year so I buy them now when I can get 10 boxes for the price of one box later in the year. Same with paper and notebooks, etc. I always buy at least one case of the $0.15 notebooks every year. They even make good coloring books! Why buy something for them to color someone else’s picture and pay $1 or more when they can design their own pictures to draw and color for $0.15???

    Kmart, in my area, is good for finding things that are sold out in other stores and that’s about it. Snowy day in February, everyone’s out of snow boots? Willing to pay $10 for $7 boots? Kmart’s where to find them. Otherwise, not so much although I will say their clothes are improving slightly.

  12. says

    Can’t stand Kmart! LOL! I did shop at Walmart, Target, the supermarket and Staples this year. Whoever was having the best deals. This morning at Staples I got Five Composition books, two packs of bic highlighters, two rulers, a protractor, 32 pencils (4 8paks) and a pair of earbuds for less than $14.

  13. says

    I figured that Walmart prices would be lower but that much lower!! Wow! Around here getting to a Super Walmart involves driving to NH but it’s worth it as the Kmart’s here are really difficult to shop in. I like tightly organized, intelligently laid out aisles & Walmart does that very well.I also love self checkout!

  14. says

    I would have done this comparison with Target, do you know if any of the Walmart Moms went there? I’m not surprised Kmart prices were so high.

    The Kmart in Lansing is disgusting, always dirty, always out of stock on everything, and the cashiers are useless. Like another commenter said, the only thing they do a really good job on is shoes, for some reason. I’ve also went to Kmart for snow boots in February!

  15. says

    I’m really surprised. I have a built in stereotype of Walmart that they really overcharge. It wasn’t based on research, just a hunch. I actually got a lot of really cheap school supplies at Target- marble notebooks 25cents!- but when I have to get the rest of the stuff, I guess I’ll be heading over to Walmart!

  16. says

    I get most of our school supplies at Walmart. If another store advertises something for a better deal, I just usually take the ad in, and Walmart matches it. It’s much easier just to go one place. I’m not sure how much we spend, but it’s not too bad – and I always stock up on the really cheap stuff.

  17. says

    Wow, that is shocking! We dont even have Kmarts around here…Target would be our comparison store. I was amazed at the prices at our local Walmarts when I did a little back to school shopping. You could have bought almost twice as much at Walmart for the price you spent at Kmart.

  18. says

    I’m not surprised. I’m a die-hard Walmart girl. They’ve done a good job at slashing prices, getting bulk items more available, and they always have whatever I need. Kmart…. they haven’t done much of anything. Honestly I’m surprised the company hasn’t folded. I expect it to any day.
    Walmart, I’m available to be a Walmart Mom too!!! I love you guys!
    Thanks for posting this, I found it very interesting reading. I love comparison shopping!