Nonedible Spotlight: Slow Overall Growth Rate Concealed Sales Volatility

Nonedible Spotlight: Slow Overall Growth Rate Concealed Sales Volatility

By the Numbers: Top 5 Categories by Dollar Sales

  • General merchandise department sales increased 11.1% to $48.7 billion.

  • Tobacco department sales increased 0.7% to $45.9 billion.

  • Health department sales increased 6.4% to $40.5 billion.

  • Beauty department sales increased 5.3% to $23.6 billion.

  • Home care department sales increased 19.6% to $16.9 billion.

Overall sales of the broad mix of categories designated as nonedible increased 7%, to $175.6 billion, for the year-to-date period ended July 12, compared with the same period the prior year. That’s a solid growth rate, although un-pandemic-like compared with the gains seen in the edible and perimeter areas. Digging deeper into the department- and category-level performance, it becomes clearer why the overall nonedible growth rate was somewhat muted.

Within each of these areas, there were pockets of dynamic growth influenced by COVID-19 and the wide range of new shopper behaviors it created. In the general merchandise area, categories reflective of a stay-at-home, work-from-home lifestyle showed the largest percentage gains.

Those trends were best reflected in the home care department, where top-performing sales categories revealed that Americans took cleaning their homes as seriously as retailers took cleaning their stores. Sales of household cleaner cloths, bleach and household cleaners increased 66.2%, 43.9% and 40.3%, respectively, during the year-to-date period ended July 12. However, during the four-week period ended March 22, sales in each category was up triple digits compared with the prior year.

Americans’ desire for cleanliness extended to personal hygiene as well, with soap and moist towelettes the biggest percentage sales gainers in the beauty department, up 45.6% and 27.5%, respectively, during the year-to-date period.

Where pandemic-driven spending behaviors in nonedible categories surfaced in a big way was in the health department. While this area’s overall sales gain was limited, thermometer sales increased 90.5% and home health care products increased 80.8% during the year-to-date period. A big cause of the gain was a surge in purchase activity that began in May and peaked during the four weeks ended July 12. Sales of thermometers increased 178% and home health care products increased 237% during the most recent four-week period, suggesting that Americans remain vigilant about monitoring their health as fears of COVID-19 have yet to abate.