July online grocery sales dip from June

Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey reported a decline in sales, frequency of online grocery orders.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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U.S. online grocery sales continue to slightly decrease, according to the monthly Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey. From June to July of 2021, there was a 2% drop in overall online sales, showing a fourth straight month of decreased sales.

In the month of July, the U.S. online grocery market generated $6.7 billion in sales during July, as ship-to-home sales declined to $1.4 billion while the combined pickup/delivery segment remained steady at $5.3 billion for the third straight month.

The Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey is an ongoing independent research initiative created and conducted by Brick Meets Click and sponsored by Mercatus. Brick Meets Click conducted the survey on July 29-30, 2021, with 1,892 adults, 18 years and older, who participated in the household’s grocery shopping. 

The overall sales decline of 2% was driven largely by an 8% drop in ship-to-home sales versus June, while pickup/delivery sales have stabilized. Sales levels for pickup/delivery and ship-to-home are respectively 4.5 and 1.8 times greater than pre-COVID sales in Aug. 2019.



“The July results clearly reinforce that online shopping has maintained a significant portion of last year’s gains, especially for pickup and delivery, but the surge in new COVID-19 cases during July appears to have impacted shoppers’ buying behaviors differently than at the onset of this crisis in 2020,” said David Bishop, partner, Brick Meets Click.

The monthly analysis reported that July’s overall sales decline was caused by a decrease in spending per order and a slight drop in monthly order frequency, which were partially offset by an increase in the number of monthly active users (MAU).

The weighted average spending per order across all three receiving methods shrank more than 5% in July 2021 versus a month ago due to two factors, according to Brick Meets Click. First, the ship-to-home average order value (AOV) was nearly 19% lower versus June 2021, while the pickup/delivery AOV essentially held steady. Second, ship-to-home captured a larger share of orders on a month-over-month basis, which contributed further downward pressure on the top-line AOV because ship-to-home’s spending per order is typically about half that of pickup and delivery orders.

Order frequency dipped slightly, just under 1%, to 2.68 orders per monthly active user during July 2021 as compared to 2.70 during the prior month. Ship-to-home grew its share of monthly online grocery orders by nearly three percentage points in July to 34%. Although this resulted in a share loss for the pickup and delivery segment overall, delivery performed well, while pickup lost five share points on a month-over-month basis. Notably, more than four in 10 MAUs have placed three or more orders per month since Jan. 2021, stabilizing after COVID peak levels in 2020. 

The number of U.S. households that bought groceries online in July, using any of the three receiving methods, jumped nearly 5% to 66.5 million households compared to June 2021. This gain reflects increases across all age groups with the youngest (18-29 years old) climbing the fastest by more than 7%. Somewhat surprisingly, the share of the MAUs who received an order via pickup dropped three percentage points on a month-over-month basis, while delivery and ship-to-home grew by six points and four points respectively.

“Grocers should be thinking about near-term improvements that will set them up for ongoing success as the monthly results reinforce that the online customer wants flexibility and convenience,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO, Mercatus. “Progressive retailers are reducing operational sources of friction, like the frustration and uncertainty associated with wait times. At the same time, grocers need to better understand their core customer so they can build more meaningful engagement that leads to increased share of wallet