Food Store Sales Perk Up in January

Feb 14, 2002

After climbing 3.4 percent in 2001, both total food and beverage store sales and grocery store sales in January were up five percent from January 2001, according to advance U.S. Census Bureau figures. Specifically, grocery store sales reached $36.2 billion last month, while beer, wine and liquor store sales reached $2.2 billion.

Preliminary figures indicate “real” (deflated) sales in the nation’s grocery store sector were a negative 0.49 percent in 2001 — well below the positive 1.93 percent estimated in 2000 versus 1999. Declining volume in the grocery store sector, however, was offset by gains in the restaurant industry, according to Food Institute estimates. Despite negative to flat month-to-month price changes at year’s end, at-home food price inflation in 2001 was the highest in five years. Overall at-home food prices in 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, advanced 3.3 percent, highest since 1996. Food away-from-home price inflation, meanwhile, was the highest in at least a decade advancing 2.9 percent.

Following a 0.8 percent drop in October and a 0.9 percent decline in November, wholesale food prices (the Producer Price Index for all finished consumer foods) ended the year by dipping another 0.1 percent in December.

Moderator Comment: If wholesale prices are down, why are at-home food prices going up?

What gives? Are street money, slots and other fees driving the prices up? Are retailers adding margin to offset low increases in volume? Was Enron in the food business? Are takeout sales way up in foodservice? [George Anderson – Moderator]

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