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Two studies show neither option is going anywhere anytime soon.

Mike Pomranz
Updated October 18, 2018

Sometimes emerging technology kills the old—like Netflix and other on-demand video services killing Blockbuster. (Well, all but one of them!) Other times, however, they coexist: Movie theaters, for example, have managed to survive all sorts of at-home options. In the food world, the online grocery game has exploded; you don’t really need to look any further than Amazon’s buyout of Whole Foods to realize that. But at the same time, though Amazon has greatly increased the scope of Whole Foods’ delivery, another reason Amazon wanted Whole Foods was that it gave the online retailer an instant presence in the brick-and-mortar world. So will online grocery shopping doom the neighborhood supermarket, or can the two survive alongside each other? A pair of contrasting new reports suggests that the coexistence may be the likeliest case.

A recent report from the market research firm Packaged Facts found that online grocery sales more than tripled over the past five years, according to FoodNavigator-USA. And that growth rate is only expected to increase, with Packaged Facts predicting that, by 2023, online grocery sales will quadruple on top of that. “Three key factors have created a perfect environment for growth of the online grocery market in the U.S. over the last five years,” David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts’ research director, was quoted as saying. “There’s been increased use of mobile phones and smartphones, interfaces for websites and mobile apps have improved, and there’s been a notable expansion of crowdsourced business models to shopping and delivery.”

Despite all this, however, Packaged Facts readily admits that online sales only account for two percent of total grocery spending. It’s a stat that makes plenty of sense when you look at another recently released report: The TABS Analytics 6th Annual Food and Beverage Consumables Study surveyed 1,000 adult Americans and found that 75 percent of them said traditional grocery stores are where they regularly went to buy food and beverages, according to Supermarket News. Meanwhile, only 17 percent of respondents said they shopped for groceries online even more than five times per year.

Though that 17 percent reportedly marked a four percent increase from the year before, another stat clearly shows that, for now at least, brick-and-mortar isn’t going anywhere. An overwhelming 99 percent of those surveyed told TABS they regularly buy food and beverage in-store, regardless of how much online shopping they’re doing on the side.

(Just for comparison’s sakes, TABS survey found that 95 percent of “transactions” took place at brick-and-mortar stores, which seems reasonably in line with Packaged Facts two percent of “total grocery spending” number.)

Overall, the results seem clear: Even as online grocery shopping increases, nearly everyone still spends plenty of time going to actual stores. Granted, online grocery shopping in the United States is still very much in its infancy, so things could continue to shift down the road, but it’s hard to imagine such a strong desire to use actual stores will go away anytime soon. In fact, as David Landsel points out, the American supermarket isn't finished with you yet.

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