Research shows us that retailer density and proximity, as well as product availability, promotions and pricing in the retail environment, all have the potential to influence consumer purchasing behaviors.
The availability of unhealthy food and beverage products in the retail environment can lead to greater rates of disease and disability including obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Even more, a high availability of alcohol outlets has been associated with increased rates of excessive drinking, underage use, and crime. Restricting the availability and advertising of alcohol in stores can reduce some of these negative impacts. In a similar vein, when stores are able to stock and advertise healthy products (like fruits and vegetables) and have them clearly visible and accessible, people are able to make better choices.
WI-DHS implemented the Wisconsin Retail Assessment Project (WRAP) annually, from 2016-2019, to document the advertising for and availability of tobacco, alcohol and food products in the state. This project was supported by state-level leaders, coalition coordinators, and volunteers. Some goals of WRAP were to increase knowledge about the retail environment, identify disparities, foster community awareness, and build public support towards interventions.
In 2016, WRAP started with a pilot in Milwaukee that focused on the tobacco retail environment in select zip code clusters. After this initial pilot, the project expanded to include additional counties across the state. In addition, food and alcohol data was collected and incorporated into the project.
Before and through WRAP, Wisconsin saw an opportunity to increase local knowledge of the retail environment by identifying what products were being marketed and sold in stores, determine differences in access between geographic areas, figure out strategies to increase healthy options, and change the retail landscape of communities within the state.