Food sales stay strong in April despite U.S. retail sales plunge

Grocery stores see sales slow compared to March but post 13.2% year-over-year gain


Russell Redman, Supermarket News 

May 18, 2020


Food and grocery sales remain high despite a partial leveling off in April, which saw overall U.S. retail sales fall nearly twice as much as in March.


Sales at food and beverage stores for April (seasonally adjusted) rose 12% year over year but declined 13.1% from March, according to advance estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The month-over-month decrease reflects the falloff from sales jumps of 29.3% year over year and 26.9% month to month in March, when consumers rushed to stores and flocked online to stock up on food and essential supplies as the coronavirus outbreak escalated across the country.


The trend was similar for the grocery stores subsegment, with sales climbing 13.2% year over year in April but dropping by the same percentage from March. Grocery store sales for March were up 30.9% year over year and 28.6% from the previous month.


Overall U.S. retail and foodservice sales for April (seasonally adjusted) came in at $403.9 billion, down 21.6% from a year earlier and 16.4% from March. For the February-to-April period, sales fell 7.7% versus the same period a year ago.


Retail trade sales — excluding gas station and automobile and auto parts sales — for April dropped 17.8% year over year and 15.1% from March, the Census Bureau reported.


April’s retail sales numbers reflect a bigger impact from COVID-19 business closures compared with March, according to The National Retail Federation (NRF). Revised U.S. Census figures for March show decreases of 8.3% month over month and 5.7% year over year.


“As predicted, retail sales were bad in April and lower than in March,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “This should come as no surprise...