Independent Grocery Stores In The Changing Landscape Of The US Food Retail Industry
by Clare Cho And Richard Volpe, USDA ERS
Posted: 2017-11-28 15:15:03 EST

This study uses data from Nielsen’s TDLinx to examine the current (2015) performance of independent grocery stores in the United States and changes in performance from 2005 to 2015, a period marked by the Great Recession and large changes to the food retail industry.

What Is the Issue?

Independent grocery stores are food retail establishments whose owners operate fewer than four outlets simultaneously. These stores generated 11 percent of all U.S. grocery sales in 2015, helping to ensure food access in areas that may not be served by chain grocery stores, including rural counties and counties with a high percentage of low-income households. They also provide employment opportunities and generate tax revenue for these areas. Given the ongoing transformation of the food retail industry and the continued importance of independent grocery stores to their local communities and to the U.S. economy, this study examines the current (2015) performance of independent stores and changes in their performance over 2005-15, particularly in relation to chain stores. The findings in this study lay the groundwork for future research on the economic impacts of independent grocery stores.

What Did the Study Find?

Although chain grocery stores dominate the U.S. food retail industry, independent grocery stores continue to play an essential role in the U.S. economy. Findings on the current (2015) performance of independent stores include the following:

• Independent grocery stores generated $70 billion in sales, or 11 percent of all U.S. grocery sales. They made up at least half of all food retailers in 44 percent of U.S. counties. However, the share of food retail sales attributed to independent stores across the United States in 2015 was low—only 19 percent of all counties had at least 50 percent of total sales from independent retailers.

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