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Center store sales up by more than 10% in 2020, say retailers in SN survey

More than 80% of respondents expect sales increases due to COVID-19 impact

The growth of center store sales during the initial height of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year has leveled off as months have gone by, but grocery retailers still expect to report sales increases of more than 10% for 2020, a new Supermarket News study reports.

The SN Center Store Trends Survey was sent out to food retailers and wholesalers throughout the month of August, with results finalized in early September. SN received a total of 74 food retail/wholesale responses.

When asked, “How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your in-store center store sales?,” 55% of survey respondents said the pandemic has led to an increase in center store sales of 10% or more, while another 27% expect to see sales increases between 5% to 10%.

Within center store, there has been a significant shift in what consumers have been buying this year during COVID-19. While snacks, beverages, groceries and beer/alcohol have been traditional leaders in the category, in 2020 retailers reported that the center store categories having the most success during the pandemic are household cleaners (mentioned by 73% of retailers), paper goods (71%), frozen food (63%) and shelf-stable food/grocery (60%).

But all center store categories have had significant success during the pandemic, according to the retailer response: Beer/alcohol was mentioned by 43% of respondents, snacks by 36%, beverages (non-alcoholic) 29%, health and beauty items (19%) and pet food/care (16%) all rounded out the categories that retailers reported having the most success with during COVID-19.

The explosion in online grocery sales spurred by the pandemic has impacted center store in a number of ways. When asked what steps retailers are taking to increase center store sales, the overwhelming response was offering at-home delivery and/or curbside pickup at 68%.

And in response to which alternate channel poses the biggest threat to center sales in supermarkets, just under half cited online retail (49%), with direct-to-consumer channels trailing at 15%. In 2020, none of the longtime competitive threats such as Walmart, dollar stores, natural retailers and club formats was mentioned by more than 10% of respondents.

Click through our slideshow to see results from the SN Center Store Trends survey in detail.

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