US grocery sales rise in January, but online purchases plummet

Published on
February 18, 2022
U.S. grocery sales rose in January, but online grocery orders plummeted as more shoppers made in-store purchases.

U.S. grocery sales rose in January, but online grocery orders plummeted as more shoppers made in-store purchases.

Overall retail sales rose 13 percent in January, compared to January 2021, while grocery and beverage store sales jumped 7.8 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

“January’s numbers show that 2022 is starting very strong for consumers and retailers, especially on the heels of a record holiday season and record sales in 2021,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a press release.

While the year ahead poses challenges that include inflationary pressures, labor shortages, COVID-19 impacts, and uncertainty related to international tensions in Russia and China, the numbers “show that, despite these concerns, consumers are spending and the economy remains in good shape,” Shay said.

“We are confident that retail sales growth and overall consumer financial health can continue, and current pressures in the economy should be moderated if election-year political pressures don’t result in policy decisions that compound the challenges our economy is already facing,” Shay said.

While overall grocery sales soared, online grocery sales declined by 8 percent in January versus January 2021, according to a new Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey. Ship-to-home sales saw the biggest drop, plummeting 30 percent, while delivery dropped 7 percent and pick-up grew 2 percent.

“These sales results show that circumstances connected to COVID continue to disrupt the way people shop, but in different ways than earlier in the pandemic,” Brick Meets Click Partner David Bishop said in a news release. “Increases in COVID case rates no longer have the same effect on buying patterns due in part to progress with vaccinations. The loss of financial assistance is another factor, since the economic impact payments and child tax credits that many households received in 2021 have ceased."

Plus, many retailers altered store operations in January to address the labor shortages associated with COVID-related absences and a tighter labor market, according to Bishop.

The vast majority (86 percent) of shopping trips took place in-store in January 2022, according to new data from 210 Analytics and IRI.

“During the early months of the pandemic, as many as 20 percent of [buying experiences] were online,” 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink told SeafoodSource. That rate dropped to a low of 11 percent in July of 2021 and increased to 14 percent in January 2022.

The in-store trend shopping is expected to increase in the coming months. In a recent IRI survey, 65 percent of shoppers said all their shopping will be in-store versus only 4 percent who believe they will purchase all groceries online. The remaining 31 percent plan to mostly purchase a little or some items online in a mixed-format shopping approach.

“This means in-person trips will continue to capture the bulk of purchases in the next few months,” Roerink said.

Photo courtesy of ungvar/Shutterstock

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