Food prices: Grocer profits in 2022 top 5-year average


Canada’s top three grocers all posted increased profits this yr in contrast with their average performances during the last 5 years, new analysis from Dalhousie University has discovered.

Critics have accused grocers of so-called greedflation, suggesting they’re profiteering at a time when meals costs are rising on the quickest charge in greater than 40 years, and researchers say a scarcity of transparency in their monetary outcomes is not serving to.

“These firms are huge and fairly diversified from a retail perspective so we advocate dividing meals gross sales from different gross sales,” stated Sylvain Charlebois, co-author of the report by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab and Dalhousie professor.

Loblaw Companies Ltd. was significantly notable, the report discovered, because it has outperformed not solely its five-year average efficiency however did higher than any of these years individually.

The grocery chain’s gross revenue in the primary half of 2022 beat its earlier finest outcomes by $180 million — equal to about an additional million {dollars} a day, the analysis discovered.

By comparability, Metro Inc.’s latest gross revenue was $11 million under its finest efficiency over the previous 5 years whereas Sobeys Inc. dad or mum Empire Co. Ltd. made $37 million much less in the primary half of the yr in contrast with its finest outcomes, the report stated.

But the report authors stated the dearth of extra detailed monetary information makes its tough to clarify why all three grocery store firms are exceeding their average performances this yr.

“We wished to see if grocers had been benefiting from excessive inflationary instances to cost an extra amount of cash for meals,” stated Samantha Taylor, a senior teacher of accounting at Dalhousie’s Rowe School of Business and co-author of the report.

“But it is inconclusive. We haven’t got that information.”

Under worldwide monetary reporting requirements, publicly traded firms can lump collectively working segments with related traits.

Loblaw’s retail section, for instance, contains gross sales from grocery shops, drugstores together with its Shoppers Drug Mart chain and different well being, magnificence and normal merchandise gross sales.

So it is unclear whether or not gross sales progress is because of meals or different objects reminiscent of child garments or make-up.

Charlebois stated the report’s findings underscore the necessity for extra transparency in Canada’s grocery sector.

“Selling meals isn’t the identical factor as promoting lipstick.”

It’s fairly doable that customers are spending extra money on merchandise which have a better gross revenue margin like cosmetics and attire, Taylor stated.

“It’s additionally doable grocers have elevated their margins on meals. We simply do not know.”

The report comes as meals inflation in Canada continues to spiral increased. Grocery costs jumped 11.4 per cent in September in contrast with a yr earlier than, the most important enhance since 1981, in response to Statistics Canada.

Surging meals costs have prompted the Competition Bureau of Canada to launch a research on competitors in the grocery business.

But the grocers defended their profits, saying their margins have not modified.

Loblaw vice-president Catherine Thomas stated retail is “the face of inflation, however we aren’t the trigger.”

“Inflation is a worldwide difficulty, not a uniquely Canadian one, and the value on our shelf represents many prices and lots of firms up the availability chain,” she stated. “This is another research that appears at meals costs with out wanting even one step additional up the chain, together with the main value will increase from international producers.”

Loblaw’s revenue margin on meals has remained flat since inflation set in, Thomas added.

Charlebois steered one of the simplest ways for Loblaw to defend its place could be to launch the total information.

“On one facet, you’ve folks looking for a scapegoat and pointing fingers at grocers,” he stated. “On the opposite facet, you’ve grocers defending themselves however with out actually a lot transparency.”

Metro vice-president of public affairs and communications Marie-Claude Bacon stated the Montreal-based grocer’s gross revenue margins have remained steady for a few years.

“Despite deceptive claims by some, we work arduous on a regular basis to offer worth to our clients and assist them in the present context of worldwide inflation,” she stated.

Sobeys didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Retail Council of Canada nationwide spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen stated whereas grocers’ total income elevated throughout the pandemic as extra folks ate at residence, revenue margins have been comparatively constant.

“The grocery business is a comparatively low-margin enterprise,” she stated. “Typically, grocery profits equate to a few or 4 per cent of revenues.”

The overwhelming driver of value will increase on retailer cabinets is the unprecedented value will increase that grocers themselves face from their distributors reminiscent of meals producers, processors and wholesalers, Wasylyshen stated.

Canada additionally has decrease meals inflation than many different nations, with meals value will increase hitting 13 per cent in the United States and 14.5 per cent in the United Kingdom, she stated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Nov. 3, 2022.


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