The Fetch Price Index (FPI) hit +12.5% year over year in October, revealing another month of sticky inflation. Consumers are cutting back and moderating their trips ahead of holiday spend.
For the latest installment of this report, Fetch analyzed a panel of 489,847 shoppers, tracking 254 million in-store and e-commerce purchases over the last 24 months. This item-level view of shopper behavior captures, in real time, the true state of inflation and its impact on consumers, brands, and retailers.
INFLATION REFUSES TO BUDGE AT +12.5% YOY
In early 2021, the Fed believed that inflation was transitory. After a year of continually accelerating above the Fed’s 2% goal, the rate of inflation appears to be stabilizing but still remains elevated. The latest Fetch Price Index (FPI)* for October reveals that average unit prices continued to increase at a similar pace as recent months, +12.5% over last year (Fig. 1). This is a further increase over elevated prices observed in Oct 2021 compared to Oct 2020 (+8.0%).
Consumers can’t ignore the impact of inflation (+11.9% for 2022 year-to-date YOY) on their standard of living as their purchasing power erodes. The Fed executed a hike in September, with another 0.75% hike last week, an expected move in an attempt to reduce the inflationary pressures while keeping a close eye on the employment index. Hinting at increased risk of an economic slowdown, IMF’s revised projections for 2022 reflect the weakest growth profile since the global financial crisis.
DEMAND SOFTENS AS INFLATION CONTINUES TO TAKE TOLL
Consumers navigate inflation through various shopping tactics. Their consumption patterns continued to zigzag in October. Spending per HH, +12.7% YOY (Fig. 2), remains high but relatively in line with price increases. High costs resulted in fewer units being purchased compared to last month, with YOY demand slowly retreating (+0.4%).
As inflation continued to leave its mark, consumer confidence tumbled in October, not only for the present economic period but also for upcoming months.
With the tightening monetary policy, we’re seeing some signs of the economy slowing down. Demand is softening, but prices haven’t changed. The question is, will the evolving policy only have a moderate impact on demand like the Fed hopes, or will it push the economy into a longer-lasting downturn?
CONSUMERS LIMIT TRIPS AHEAD OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON
Shoppers are bringing comparatively fewer items into the household than last year, with the most recent trip data showing they’re also cutting back on the number of trips made. October posted the smallest increase in average trips per household, +1.8% YOY (Fig. 4). Basket sizes are still below last year, but are slightly more consolidated in recent months (YOY -1.1% in September, -1.4% in October). Despite fewer items being purchased, spending per trip is higher as shoppers endured the second highest increase YOY (+10.7%) after last month (+12.3%).
To control spending, consumers are taking fewer trips compared to recent months, shopping in bulk where necessary, and buying less overall YOY. Consumer cut-back, another symptom of an ailing economy, indicates they may be saving where they can now in anticipation of the upcoming holidays.
PRICEY THANKSGIVING ANTICIPATED AS STAPLES OUTPACE OVERALL PRICE INCREASES
Fetch looked at YOY price increases for Thanksgiving staples to understand how much more Thanksgiving dinner will cost, and how consumers could alter what they put on the dinner table. Persistent inflation and consequences of avian flu, one of the worst ever noted, will likely create an imbalance in supply and demand for the star ingredient: turkey. With frozen turkey prices alone up +19.2%, a typical Thanksgiving dinner will be 11.4% more expensive this year for Americans (Fig. 5).
In fact, 9 of 13 staple categories are outpacing the FPI: whipping cream, +31.0%, russet potatoes +29.2%, and pies/pie filling/pie crusts +25.8%. To save, consumers could swap turkey for other meats, like ham +11.6%. For extra savings, they could substitute Russet potatoes with sweet potatoes.
Regardless, as prices trend north, consumers will likely make many adjustments. Retailers and brands will need to gauge demand and optimize their pricing and promotional strategy to attract shoppers’ loyalty.
^ Thanksgiving Dinner Categories: Whipping Cream, Russet Potatoes, Pies (includes pie, fillings and crusts), Frozen Turkey (includes whole and parts), Cranberries (includes dried/ fresh cranberries & cranberry sauce), Dinner Rolls, Soda & Soft Drinks, Gravy, Sweet Potatoes, Ham (excludes cubed diced julienned and sliced ham), Green Beans, Stuffing, Alcohol (excludes Beer),
A dismal consumer outlook and softening demand may impact how consumers shop and spend for the holidays or they may reach inflation fatigue and let go to make the most of the holiday season. Time will tell, and Fetch will continue to report.
Methodology: Year-over-year (YOY) change in average price and shopper metrics is calculated using Fetch’ proprietary 24 months user panel ending October 2022. The panel comprised 489,847 users who scanned any receipt for 24 consecutive months. A continuous shopper panel allows for YOY comparison and adjusts for Fetch’ user growth, reflecting true change in shopper behavior.
Panel users contributed 254 million receipts across the reporting time range, October 2020-October 2022 across food, beverages, household and personal care categories captured by Fetch. Fetch is retail agnostic and accepts receipts from 1,000+ national and regional retailers across brick & mortar, click & collect as well as digital/e-commerce.
Data may slightly shift as Fetch’s panel reaches their 14 day scan limit. Any shifts will be minimal, and updated in future reports.
About Fetch: Founded in Madison, WI, Fetch captures over $133B in annualized retail sales by rewarding 17 million active shoppers every time they submit any receipt through the app. Launched in 2017, Fetch provides shoppers an easy and fun way to save money, and brands a meaningful way to understand the retail world and connect with those shoppers. The resulting data was used to create this report.
About the author: Dhwani Worah Upadhyay is a Marketing Analytics & Science lead at Fetch. She has an MBA in Marketing from Gujarat University, India, and resides in New York, where she has worked for over 10 years leading syndicated marketing analytics and commercial strategy for fortune 500 global retail and consumer packaged goods companies.
Contributors: Hsiao-Chien Wei, Data Analyst, Fetch, Amanda Jeppson, Senior Manager, Research & Insights