Food & Beverage

Grocery sales are rising but so is the pressure on profits, analyst says

Key Points
  • The grocery industry is seeing heightened pressure on profit margins, according to a Loop Capital Markets research note. 
  • As a result, the research firm holds a netural view on the industry despite an acceleration in sales.
  • Walmart has the market-leading position in the U.S. grocery space but same-store sales gains by rivals are  narrowing the gap, the firm said. 
  • The Commerce Department found that grocery sales in the third quarter rose by 4% year-over-year.
Woman shops for groceries.

Walmart continues to lead the U.S. grocery sector, but the gap with its rivals is narrowing, and pressure on profits is rising, according to a new report from Loop Capital Markets.

Walmart has a 22% share of the $847 billion U.S. grocery industry, according to analyst Andrew Wolf.

The retailer's same-store sales growth at its grocery business has been outperforming rival supermarket chains since 2017, but the gap is narrowing. Also, as food prices are disinflating, grocery gross margins have worsened for Walmart, Wolf said Friday in a research note.

It's not alone. In the second quarter, gross margins worsened for Ahold and Publix as well, but remained the same for Kroger and even improved for privately owned Albertsons, according to the note. Wolf expects more of the same in the third quarter.

The Commerce Department found that grocery sales in the third quarter rose by 4% year over year, which was a faster pace than the 2.6% gain in the second quarter and the 2.5% increase in the first quarter.

Despite the sales growth, the pressure on profits means Wolf continues to hold a neutral view on the sector.

Walmart is set to report fiscal third-quarter earnings on Nov. 14. Analysts are expecting earnings of $1.09 per share, according to Refinitiv. For Kroger, analysts are expecting fiscal third-quarter earnings of 48 cents per share. It last reported its earnings in September.

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