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Retail Industry Updates

Why Online Grocery Sales Dipped in May

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U.S online grocery shopping declined in May, but the dip didn’t come as a surprise and online grocery shopping remains robust.

The U.S. online grocery market posted $7.0 billion in sales during May, down 16% versus last May, according to the “Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey” of 1,872 consumers fielded May 28-30. The decline in sales was driven by drops in several key performance indicators, including monthly active users, order frequency and average order value, the survey found. Despite the reductions, total online sales in May remained 3.5 times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“As the business laps very tough year-over-year comparisons, it is essential to put monthly performance into perspective and keep an eye on the big picture,” said David Bishop, a partner with Brick Meets Click, a Barrington, Ill.-based analytics and strategic insight firm that covers the grocery industry. “May’s results show the market retains 70% of the incremental gains generated versus the record COVID high of $9.3 billion, illustrating that much of the gain propelled by the pandemic has stuck around.”

The ongoing independent research initiative, created and conducted by Brick Meets Click and sponsored by grocery e-commerce platform Mercatus, found that 66.8 million U.S. households bought groceries online in May, a 12% decline versus May 2020.

During the pandemic year, the mix of fulfillment methods shifted, the report found. Pickup maintains the top position for reach and was used by 55% of monthly active users in May, up over four points versus last May. In contrast, the share of monthly active users receiving grocery orders via delivery grew just more than one point and ship to home contracted six points over the same time frame.

“Usage trends signal the increased acceptability and/or value that pickup provides a grocery customer compared to delivery or ship to home,” Bishop explained. “Pickup not only costs the customer less, but also gives them greater control over the quality of temperature-sensitive products. Pickup has remained the dominant method since the beginning of 2021.”

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