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October Retail Sales Americans Pare Down, Stay Home
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October Retail Sales Americans Pare Down, Stay Home

In October, as global financial markets plunged amid multiple bank bailouts, U.S. consumers showed marked caution at the cash register, focusing their purchases at food, drug, and mass merchandiser stores on basic necessities: food, medicines, and other household items.

Edible essentials, like bread, milk, cheese, and fresh produce, were among the top retail categories for October, according to Nielsen. 

Discretionary items like carbonated beverages, candy, and snacks were also among the top sellers in October — but most of these categories showed year-over-year unit and dollar sales declines.

Top Categories: October 2008 (Dollar Sales: Food/Drug/Mass Merchandiser Sales)

Rank

(by 2008 Dollar Sales)

Top Food/Drug/Mass Merchandiser Sales Categories

(October 2008)

Dollar Sales:

4 Weeks Ending

Nov. 3, 2007

Dollar Sales:

4 Weeks Ending

Nov. 1, 2008

% Change

(Year-Over-Year)

1 BREAD & BAKED GOODS $1,290,938,580 $1,399,971,505 8.4%
2 CARBONATED BEVERAGES $1,357,519,242 $1,353,136,144 -0.3%
3 CANDY $1,202,786,146 $1,197,197,264 -0.5%
4 MILK $1,277,923,416 $1,194,222,015 -6.5%
5 PAPER PRODUCTS $1,070,803,654 $1,142,692,503 6.7%
6 SNACKS $1,048,048,516 $1,128,709,667 7.7%
7 FRESH PRODUCE $1,069,576,129 $1,115,999,283 4.3%
8 CHEESE $928,000,074 $1,020,525,908 10.0%
9 PACKAGED MEAT $954,377,692 $1,016,858,601 6.5%
10 PREPARED FOODS-FROZEN $871,852,882 $918,782,551 5.4%
Source: The Nielsen Company (October 2007 and October 2008).
Note: Data includes UPC-coded products only.

Top Categories: October 2008 (Unit Sales: Food/Drug/Mass Merchandiser Sales)

Rank

(by 2008 Unit Sales)

Top Food/Drug/Mass Merchandiser Sales Categories

(October 2008)

Unit Sales:

4 Weeks Ending

Nov. 3, 2007

Unit Sales:

4 Weeks Ending

Nov. 1, 2008

% Change

(Year-Over-Year)

1 CARBONATED BEVERAGES 708,655,391 670,846,579 -5.3%
2 CANDY 666,131,070 623,186,230 -6.4%
3 BREAD & BAKED GOODS 615,331,518 617,460,775 0.3%
4 SNACKS 499,438,878 493,832,857 -1.1%
5 FRESH PRODUCE 461,920,897 454,394,973 -1.6%
6 SOUP 423,664,142 435,504,210 2.8%
7 MILK 431,180,191 425,215,642 -1.4%
8 VEGETABLES-CANNED 431,952,857 423,169,047 -2.0%
9 PACKAGED MEAT 358,371,906 359,690,913 0.4%
10 YOGURT 346,426,145 347,690,618 0.4%
Source: The Nielsen Company (October 2007 and October 2008).
Note: Data includes UPC-coded products only.

Products geared toward at-home use — canning supplies, baking ingredients, and wine — were among the fastest growing food, drug, and mass merchandiser retail categories in October, according to Nielsen. 

That trend may signal a shift in consumer behavior, as Americans increasingly opt to save money by staying in and eating at home. 

Fastest Growing Categories: October 2008 (Dollar Sales Growth: Food/Drug/Mass Merchandiser Sales)

Rank

(by 2008

Dollar Sales Growth)

Top Food/Drug/Mass Merchandiser Sales Categories

(October 2008)

Dollar Sales:

4 Weeks Ending

Nov. 3, 2007

Dollar Sales:

4 Weeks Ending

Nov. 1, 2008

% Change

(Year-Over-Year)

1 CANNING/FRZING SUPPLIES $6,570,566 $10,062,285 53.1%
2 VEGETABLES & GRAINS-DRY $80,136,141 $108,062,429 34.8%
3 PASTA $121,456,953 $158,672,792 30.6%
4 FLOUR $46,222,365 $60,365,773 30.6%
5 MEAL STARTERS-REFRIG. $1,256,507 $1,558,324 24.0%
6 SHORTENING/OIL $191,558,915 $230,171,249 20.2%
7 COUGH AND COLD REMEDIES $358,619,985 $423,769,133 18.2%
8 MOTOR/VEHICLE CARE/ACCESSORIES $109,194,105 $126,917,244 16.0%
9 CHARCOAL/LOGS/ACCESSORIES $56,983,609 $65,826,241 15.5%
10 BUTTER & MARGARINE $225,605,983 $257,569,147 14.2%
Source: The Nielsen Company (October 2007 and October 2008).
Note: Data includes UPC-coded products only.

Fastest Growing Categories: October 2008 (Unit Sales Growth: Food/Drug/Mass Merchandiser Sales)

Rank

(by 2008

Unit Sales Growth)

Top Food/Drug/Mass Merchandiser Sales Categories

(October 2008)

Unit Sales:

4 Weeks Ending

Nov. 3, 2007

Unit Sales:

4 Weeks Ending

Nov. 1, 2008

% Change

(Year-Over-Year)

1 CANNING/FRZING SUPPLIES 1,769,780 2,480,355 40.2%
2 MEAL STARTERS-REFRIG. 418,437 460,873 10.1%
3 COUGH AND COLD REMEDIES 70,901,470 76,096,016 7.3%
4 WINE 56,599,330 60,637,073 7.1%
5 FRESH MEAT 53,545,853 57,119,011 6.7%
6 PASTA 109,011,722 114,346,746 4.9%
7 TABLE SYRUPS/MOLASSES 18,180,866 18,999,989 4.5%
8 PREPARED FOODS-DRY MIXES 245,251,379 255,855,902 4.0%
9 VEGETABLES & GRAINS-DRY 42,368,028 44,007,559 3.9%
10 VITAMINS 53,957,077 55,860,918 3.5%
Source: The Nielsen Company (October 2007 and October 2008).
Note: Data includes UPC-coded products only.

Learn more about global consumers’ responses to the current economic crisis on Nielsen Wire.