Grocery-Store Boom is Poised to Live On Even as Pandemic Fades

Supermarket prices are rising, and restaurants are reopening. But Americans keep stocking up on groceries.

Grocery sales accelerated in late May and early June, according to Nielsen data cited in a Morgan Stanley note. That’s despite restaurant revenue growth turning positive in April for the first time during the pandemic. Meanwhile, supermarket prices are up 15% on average versus before Covid-19. More than a third of Americans said they’re still buying more groceries in the first quarter of the year, with only 8% saying they’re purchasing less, according to a survey from researcher Jungle Scout.

The situation has confounded analysts, who expected robust grocery-store sales to diminish as the year progressed and as vaccinated Americans returned to offices, restaurants and travel. It can’t be explained by inflation, because grocers are also returning to their normal practice of discounting, which partially offsets the price hikes they’re taking elsewhere. Sales of groceries on a unit level, which exclude the effects of inflation, have held steady.

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