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Moody's Sees 'Tepid' Supermarket Performance

NEW YORK — Moody's Inc. here said Wednesday that supermarkets can be expected to report "tepid" results in 2012.

"With a struggling economy and high unemployment, supermarket shoppers will hold on to thrifty buying habits," the debt-ratings agency said in an outlook report on various retail channels. "As food commodity prices continue to rise, supermarkets will find it harder to pass on these costs to consumers and will therefore see their operating margins come under pressure."

Supermarkets will continue to see their customers drawn to alternative, value-driven channels like dollar stores, discounters and club stores the report concluded. Supermarket growth will primarily be driven by discount and EDLP formats and private-label offerings.

In addition, Moody's projected that supermarkets with large pharmacy offerings could benefit "modestly" from some high-margin generic prescription products that are expected to hit the shelves next year.