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Independent Grocers Account for 1.1M Jobs: NGA Study

Association examines the role community supermarkets play in the nation’s economy
grocery sales increase
Photograph: Shutterstock

Independent grocers are responsible for more than 1.1 million jobs, earning wages of nearly $39 billion, according to a National Grocers Association study examining the economic contributions made by independent retail and wholesale grocery industry to the U.S. economy in 2020.

The association’s previous study, which used data from 2012, found independents accounted for 944,200 jobs. “This study is further proof that independent community grocers are crucial to feeding the nation’s pocketbooks as well as its bellies,” said NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara in a release.

Meanwhile, wholesalers serving independent grocers provide more than 44,000 jobs that earn wages of nearly $3.3 billion, and the independent grocery industry is directly or indirectly responsible for nearly 860,000 jobs across other industries, including agriculture, manufacturing and transportation, according to the study conducted by John Dunham & Associates. Independent grocers also generate federal, state and local tax revenues surpassing $36 billion.

“Not only are independent community grocers at the heart of the community, they are also at the heart of the U.S. economy,” Ferrara said. “The continued strength and growth of the independent supermarket industry shows consumers are supporting local, community grocers who continue to innovate and bring value to the communities they serve.”

Economic Contribution of the Independent Grocery Industry

 JobsWagesEconomic Impact
Direct Impacts   
• Retail grocery stores1.1 million $38.5 billion$87.6 billion
• Wholesalers44,180$3.3 bilion$8.9 bilion
Total Direct Impact1.15 million$41.8 billion$96.5 billion
Indirect Impacts334,371$21.1 billion$64.5 billion
Induced Impacts523,417$29.7 billion$94.1 billion
Total Impacts2 million$92.6 billion$255.1 billion
Total Sales  $253.6 billion
Total Taxes  $36.1 billion

Evidence of that support includes an increase in independent grocery sales, which rose from $131 billion to $253.6 billion between 2012 and 2020, the study found. During that same time, overall U.S. grocery store sales rose from $524 billion to $772 billion, which means independent grocery sales account for 33% of total U.S. grocery sales—up from 25% a decade ago.

Further, independent grocers represent 1.2% of the 2020 U.S. gross domestic product of $20.93 trillion, with a total output exceeding $255 billion. 

“Through strategic investment and planning, independent community grocers found themselves well-positioned to meet the intense demand placed on them by consumers during the pandemic, and have proved themselves to be indispensable partners in their communities and local economies,” Ferrara said.

Part of that demand meant providing e-commerce options for consumers who shied away from physical stores as they focused on staying healthy and safe during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, online grocery sales grew 54% in 2020 to nearly $96 billion, driving it to a 12% share of total U.S. e-commerce sales and 7.4% of all grocery sales, according to a separate report from Insider Intelligence.

Despite independents’ growth in jobs, wages and sales in the past decade, Ferrara warns that “independents appear to be losing a foothold in rural and inner-city low-income areas,” citing an unlevel playing field between big and small businesses supported by outdated and unenforced antitrust laws.

“NGA is working to reverse this trend through a comprehensive antitrust advocacy approach that would rein in growing power-buyer influence and encourage grocery investment in disadvantaged communities,” Ferrara said.

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