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03/16/2021

U.S. online grocery sales dip in February

Independent research from Brick Meets Click and Mercatus saw total online grocery sales drop by 12% from January’s record totals.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Online U.S. grocery sales dropped by double digits in February compared with January’s record totals, according to the ongoing Brick Meets Click and Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey.

The survey found that fewer households went online for groceries during the month, placing fewer orders. Monthly active users dropped 12% from 69.7 million households buying online groceries in January to 60.1 million in February. The result in sales was a 14% dip to $8 billion in e-commerce grocery sales during February. January saw a record $9.3 billion in online grocery sales.

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“February’s overall sales contraction was expected,” said David Bishop, partner, Brick Meets Click, Barrington, Ill. “While January’s sales performance set a record high for online grocery sales, we also saw January’s shopper sentiment related to completing a grocery delivery or pickup order within the next month drop by approximately 10%, and that is what happened, albeit at a slightly higher rate, in February.”

Brick Meets Click and Mercatus fielded a survey between Feb. 26-28, and found that older consumers had the biggest impact on the month’s sales numbers. The study said that shoppers  in the age group of 60 years old or older represented more than 40% of the total number of reduced shoppers online, perhaps hinting at older shoppers heading to stores more with vaccinations being rolled out.

The study also saw lower order frequency during February, with shoppers placing 6% fewer orders, averaging 2.7 orders during the month compared with 2.8 orders for January. However, when orders were made, the study found that the average order value actually increased by 4%, so shoppers were still in a stock-up mindframe.

“For many regional grocery chains, the online shopping battleground has shifted from delivery to curbside,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO, Mercatus. “Lower repeat intent rates for first-time pickup customers puts the spotlight squarely on customer service. Implementing a frictionless curbside fulfillment experience that wins the customer the first time, every time will help grocers defend against mass merchants’ low-price advantage. Enhanced pickup services combined with retailer branded marketing strategies to win-back lapsed and lost customers can help increase monthly order frequency, and contribute to a healthy contribution margin from online shopping."