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Wal-Mart regaining grocery share from competitors at 'accelerating rate'

  • Wal-Mart's comps outpace overall grocery peers in Q1 and accelerate from Q4
  • Retailer's food price cuts helped contribute to a rebound in its grocery share

A shopper in a Walmart store.
Jeff Daniels | CNBC
A shopper in a Walmart store.

Wal-Mart Stores is gaining a bigger slice of the $800 billion market and momentum picked up in the recent first quarter, according to a new report.

"Wal-Mart is taking back share from the traditional supermarket at an accelerating rate," according to Loop Capital analyst Andrew Wolf, who estimates the retailer now has a 21.5 percent market share in the U.S. traditional grocery industry.

In a report this week, Wolf said the world's biggest retailer's domestic grocery same-store sales beat U.S. supermarkets by 2.9 percent in the first quarter, which represented a stronger pace from 1.6 percent outperformance in the fourth quarter of 2016.

"Wal-Mart's last period of sustained outperformance versus the supermarkets was 2009-2010, while from 2013 through Q3'2016, the supermarkets outperformed Wal-Mart at same stores," Wolf said.

Added the analyst, "Thus, the last quarter of outperformance appear to mark a potential major inflection point for Wal-Mart after having been a (same-store) share donor since 2013."

Wal-Mart's strong performance in the first quarter was helped in part of lower deflation but also by continued pricing investment by the Arkansas-based company as it seeks to better against Kroger, European-based discounter Aldi and other grocers.

In the past month, there have been reports of price drops at Wal-Mart supermarkets in major U.S. markets where Kroger and others compete.

"Kroger has discussed that while certain markets are indeed more competitive, such as those in which Wal-Mart is changing prices, certain other markets are less competitive than normal," said Wolf.

Wal-Mart didn't respond to a request for comment. Kroger declined comment.

Still, Wolf said Kroger still is showing some strength even as it faces more competition from Wal-Mart and others, including Amazon's push into the online grocery market.

Kroger has its own online grocery strategy, which includes both delivery through third-party delivery services as well an in-store pickup option. Wal-Mart too is aggressively pushing into the online grocery segment.

"Like Wal-Mart, Kroger is pursuing an e-commerce grocery 'click and collect' model, for which customers order online and pick up their orders at store," Wolf said. "We believe this will be an increasing feature of U.S. grocery shopping going forward."

Watch: Cramer says Wal-Mart gives Amazon a run for its money