Hot on the heels of this week’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) report from the Labor Department, another government agency reported on inflation-related market trends. The U.S. Census Bureau announced that U.S. retail and foodservice sales rose 1% in June to reach $680.6 billion and, within the overall market, grocery sales edged up 0.6% over May for an 8.3% year-over-year increase.
According to Census Bureau information, estimated monthly sales for grocery stores topped $70.3 billion last month, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences but not for price changes. For the first six months of 2022, adjusted sales reached more than $409 billion, up 8.6% compared to the first six months of 2021.
Inflation throws a wrench into the sheer sales data. “While grocery spend was elevated, shoppers are bringing in fewer items to their home,” pointed out Chip West, a retail and consumer behavior expert at marketing solutions company Vericast.
Shoppers are adjusting in other ways, said West after reviewing the fresh statistics. “Due to escalating inflation, gas and housing prices, for value-seeking consumers ‘trading down’ is a noticeable theme this summer across most categories. Grocery store prices now are up over 10% versus last year and have pushed more shoppers to superstores and even dollar stores. Grocers that promote and try to attract consumers looking for value and deals will be in a better spot as the year goes on,” he remarked.
As with other locations in which the retailer has made this change, shoppers can buy paper grocery bags for five cents per bag, a fee that will be eventually donated to local food banks. Ultimately, Wegmans is working to shift shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. The company reported that in stores in which plastic bags are no longer available, 20% to 25% of shoppers’ groceries are bagged in paper while the remaining 75% to 80% are placed in reusable bags or not bagged at all.
The family-owned business has set a goal to eliminate single-use plastic bags across its operations by the end of 2022. In its announcement, Wegmans noted it will “work to ensure consistency in its approach across all markets, unless legislation dictates otherwise.”
In addition to bolstering eco-friendlier grocery bagging, Wegmans has pledged to reduce its in-store plastic packaging and single-use plastics by 10 million pounds 2024.
Family-operated organic and natural grocery retailer Natural Grocers has rolled out a national hiring initiative for almost 500 positions. Hiring “hot-spot” locations include Dallas; Portland, Ore.; Denver; and the Kansas City area. With the opening of its first store in South Dakota on July 27, Natural Grocers will have 163 stores in 21 states, employing more than 4,000 employees. Further, to sweeten the deal for prospective job seekers, the company has raised wages at all locations for select positions.
“We offer unique benefits and fun perks that attract, engage, develop and retain our wonderful workforce,” said Erin DeLacy, Natural Grocers’ talent acquisition strategist. “We’ve also recently increased our store manager and assistant store manager pay and most department assistants/managers. If you love helping people and have a passion for nutrition and healthy living, you could be the perfect addition to our team.”
As part of the company’s Five Founding Principles, Natural Grocers offers employees pay above federal and state minimum-wage levels, regularly scheduled (annual) pay increases, no pay caps for store associates who wish to stay in their current positions, employee discounts of up to 30%, $1-per-hour store credit, competitive benefits, monthly free Nutrition Education training, access to free immune and stress-relieving supplements amid the pandemic, access to short-term financial assistance, and Birthday Pay.
Additionally, Natural Grocers prioritizes promoting leaders from within the organization and supports career development through regular training and leadership development opportunities.
“Offering our Crew competitive pay, benefits and growth opportunities creates an atmosphere of well-being, optimism and knowledge — all the things that help people thrive,” added DeLacey.
Heading up the search committee is Billy Cyr, CEO of Freshpet, Inc., aided by Jeff Harmening, chairman and CEO of General Mills Inc.; Wendy Davidson, president, Americas of Glanbia Performance Nutrition; Linda Rendle, CEO of The Clorox Co.; Monica Turner, president, North America of The Procter & Gamble Co.; and Steven Williams, CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America. Leslie Hortum, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant at Chicago-based Spencer Stuart, will lead the search.
“The CPG industry is made up of thousands of iconic brands that have the privilege of being in every American home, every day, and we appreciate the importance of having a strong association in Consumer Brands to support our efforts to deliver for consumers,” noted Harmening, who is also chairman of the Arlington, Va.-based trade organization. “Consumer Brands has built an agenda that united the industry, expanded membership and revenue and grown into an association that we are increasingly proud to be a part of — and one well positioned to recruit a strong new leader.”
“We are looking for a candidate who will build on the strong foundation that exists today, furthering the organization’s momentum and ushering in the next phase of growth,” added Cyr.
The organization has grown significantly during Freeman’s four-year stint at the helm. Since the organization’s rebrand to Consumer Brands in January 2020, membership increased 35% and dues revenue experienced almost 50% growth. Consumer Brands now represents 72 CPG companies with nearly 2,000 brands encompassing cleaning, personal care, food and beverage products.
General Counsel and SVP of Operations Stacy Papadopoulos will take over as interim CEO, starting on Aug. 5, until a successor is named.
“The capable team here will ensure the organization continues to deliver on the agenda and serves as the champion this industry deserves," said Papadopoulos.
H-E-B is putting the home in its home state with the launch of two new décor lines, Haven + Key and Texas Proud. The collections are part of the Texas retailer’s new Home by H-E-B department.
Shoppers can browse hundreds of items, including furnishings, accents, decorative items, textiles and other home goods that are now available in H-E-B locations in Brownsville, Burleson, Corpus Christi, New Braunfels and San Antonio. By the end of the year, home décor areas will be added to 25 stores in Texas, the retailer reports.
According to H-E-B, the spaces will vary in square footage depending on location, and assortments will be tailored to each market. So far, the biggest home décor department is at the recently-opened store in San Antonio, spanning more than 2,500 square feet and carrying more than 500 items.
Where available in store, the items can be purchased for curbside pickup. Home delivery is offered in select areas, and shoppers can review the collection online via the grocer’s website and mobile app.
H-E-B describes the Haven + Key line as featuring “modern, signature styles,” with pieces such as mirrors, candles and rugs. As its name suggests, the Texas Proud collection celebrates the state’s distinctive style and spirit, with offerings like leather goods, wood and antler art, cowhide benches and candles.
H-E-B is diversifying into these categories during the pandemic era in which people have been spending more time at home – and spending more on their homes. “At H-E-B, we’re always looking for ways to offer a unique, quality shopping experience, and Home by H-E-B is another way we’re able to better meet the needs of Texans,” explained Sabina Israelian-Garcia, the retailer’s group VP of general merchandise, drug store and beauty.
One year after filing for an initial public offering (IPO), The Fresh Market’s parent company, Fresh Market Holdings Inc., has filed to withdraw its IPO plans, as reported by Reuters.
The Fresh Market did not give a reason for withdrawing its filing, but the U.S. IPO market has hit a slump in recent months as recession fears and the fallout from the Ukraine crisis hammer equities, according to Reuters.
Other food retailers making bold moves due to the current economic climate include Gopuff, which is preparing for a possibly "significant" economic downturn by making cuts to its workforce and fulfillment network, among other moves.