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Retail Perishables Stabilize at Elevated Levels

Source: Category Partners

Idaho Falls, ID – Retail sales trends from the week ending (Saturday) April 4 indicate that the dramatic sales increases which characterized the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic appear to have stabilized across perishable departments in retail grocery.  According to the latest Category Partners’ analyses powered by Nielsen U.S. scan data for the Total U.S. for the single-weeks ending April 4, 2020, when compared to the same week last year, most fresh departments continue to sell at elevated levels. Meat (+36.8%), frozen (+32.8%), dairy (+26.4%) and produce (+16.2%) all posted significant dollar gains for the week.  However, these weekly year-over-year increases are now less than half the level of increase experienced just two weeks ago at the crisis peak.  The notable exceptions were the deli (-7.2%) and bakery (-13.6%) departments which experienced actual sales declines the week of 4/4 versus the same week last year. “With the quarantine shopping regimen becoming more routine for consumers, it appears as through the weekly volatility we were seeing a few weeks ago in fresh departments has stabilized,” said Steve Lutz, Senior VP of Insights for Category Partners.  “This comparative stability suggests consumers have begun aligning weekly grocery purchases with anticipated consumption versus the pantry-loading behavior we saw in mid-March.” “In general, we expect retail perishable department sales to remain at an elevated baseline compared to the previous year,” said Lutz.  “In the short term, this is a likely impact of the shift out of the food service sector into retail grocery. The reality is dine-out options for consumers will continue to be greatly reduced for the foreseeable future.“ Lutz says that over the coming weeks Category Partners now expects pressure on household budgets resulting from furloughs and job losses to largely offset continued large dollar gains seen in March in the grocery sector that resulted from the closure of foodservice dining options. While Category Partners believes the trend is toward “elevated stabilization”, the timing of the Easter holiday will now create some disruption in the ability to compare weekly sales performance against last year and to project future baseline sales.