More good news (don’t cry)

July 17, 2008


As I’ve noted before (here and here and here), high gas prices do have an upside. And I read some more good news in the paper today:

High gas prices boost sales at small-town groceries

People in small towns were accustomed to buying just a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk or a pound of bacon at their local grocery, but not any more.

Now, they are buying more food and general merchandise, and grocery sales are climbing, area grocers said Wednesday.

Small-town groceries may be the bright spot in the economy, or, as Reg Gage, owner of Mr. G’s Grocery in Prophetstown, said, “As long as our numbers climb, it’s not a bad thing.”

“Overall, we’re seeing more people stay closer to home and buy locally,” said Jerry Shawgo, owner of the Orion IGA. His store sales are better in than previous years, he said.

The Walmart haters and “buy local” advocates should love $4/gallon gas.


(as Lesley rides the bus)

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11 Responses to “More good news (don’t cry)”

  1. PatrickP Says:

    I was a little bit embarrassed while watching that.

  2. Jamie Says:

    I don’t believe a word it. While I am making less frequent trips to the grocery store, the increased price of those groceries means that I’m buying fewer items while I’m there. Which is bad for my wallet.

    Practically all of the small-town grocery stores up here are extinct, and have been for years. What we’ve been left with are the big chains (Shaw’s, Price Chopper, Hannaford). And the G.U. Market that’s ten miles closer to my house than the next nearest grocery store has prices an average of 6% higher.

    I fail to see how any of this is good news, and I try to buy local as much as I can.

  3. John in IL Says:

    Jamie, your belief or disbelief in something doesn’t change the fact that, at least here, some small town grocery stores are doing brisk business. And it’s good news for anyone who has complained about the impending death of Main Street, America.

    and just curious…are there any grocery selling Walmarts in your state?

  4. John in IL Says:

    and don’t be embarrassed, Patrick…just sit back and enjoy!

  5. superdave524 Says:

    I always shop at the Piggly Wiggly. Second closest store (about 1 and 1/2 miles from the Manor), and cheapest. And I clip coupons. And use my store discount card. I’m still buying fewer groceries. Actually, high gas prices and the crappy economy will help us learn to save money again. So, there’s that.

  6. Jamie Says:

    and just curious…are there any grocery selling Walmarts in your state?

    Not that I’m aware of. Although the one in Plattsburgh (an hour’s trip across the lake) does indeed sell groceries, it’s really too far away to be feasible.

    Besides which (from your article):

    While grocers’ store sales are on the rise, the change may not be major nor the profit margins huge. Morrison’s Market in Viola has seen a change, but not a huge difference, said owner Amy Morrison.

    The cost to consumers is still rising, and if I had the time right now I could find numerous articles on people changing their grocery shopping habits to reflect a switch to generic instead of name brands, and buying more in bulk (which I recommend, anyway).

    I really don’t see this “change” as significant.

  7. John in IL Says:

    So one owner says there is a difference but it is not “huge”(they’re cranky in Viola (or Voila! as I like to call it)). Profit margins for grocery stores are notoriously small, so any change in their bottom line wouldn’t be huge. I think Walmart’s profit margin is around 3%.

    Maybe if you had grocery selling Walmart in your area you wouldn’t feel so pinched (in the wallet). And since you don’t have any mom and pop grocery stores in the Green Mountain State anymore, the citizens there really need to embrace low, low prices.

  8. John in IL Says:

    and superdave, do you mean the crappy economy where Apple sells one million iPhones in a weekend…

  9. superdave524 Says:

    Okay, John, not everyone’s hurting. Glad they’re people to buy the cool new gadgets. Shoot, once I get the gummit paid off, I might buy some toys myself.

  10. Quakerjono Says:

    do you mean the crappy economy where Apple sells one million iPhones in a weekend…

    And I’d wager at least 99.9999% of them were bought on credit cards which will not be paid off in full at the end of the month which just further contributes to the fundamental problem of a society head over heals in debt. But, hey, so long as Apple’s bottom line is healthy, everything must be fine, right?

    Anyway, I do think the article is making a good point about what higher gas prices and food prices are doing. Over the last couple of years I’ve been getting into the “eat local” movement and it is hard to argue that skyrocketing transportation costs are making this type of shopping more and more attractive.

    To begin with, though, it was all about flavor. While it’s “convenient” to go to your local food conglomerate super market and buy “fresh” hot-house tomatoes in January, if you are still buying them at the grocery store and aren’t buying local tomatoes from local growers at the farmer’s markets in the summer, you’re a damn fool and your opinion is obviously worthless. So better flavor in addition to more sustainable growing methods make buying local a no-brainer, even when the economy is purring right along.

    So yes, certainly there’s a welcome bump for local grocers, but there’s also a big bump for local growers and farmer’s markets as well as CSAs and food cooperatives. And the gardening industry is seeing more business than it has in years. Say what you will about the current economy and The Great Depression, but the people who lived through that time learned valuable lessons that it would behoove us to relearn today.

    We may also finally be able to get American Gluttony under control. My food bills have actually gone down lately as I start to make better choices and get a firmer concept on the idea of portion control. I realize that I’m a single man with a certain amount of discretionary income and the wherewithal to experiment with my diet, so my experience isn’t the same as someone who’s seeking to feed themselves and a spouse and four kids. I’m also uniquely positioned in that I have access to an urban environment and the natural foods stores that come along with it, a suburban environment for fresh (if not always local) produce and a rural environment for incredibly fresh food. Many families (and even singles) making poor nutrition choices do so at least in part because they literally have no other options.

    With that said, a little food deprivation might not be a bad thing. Bringing the American hunger more in line with what it actually takes to keep a healthy waistine is probably, like everything else in this country, going to be motivated by the bottom line. It’s not necessary to eat until one is painfully full three or more times a day to avoid starvation. Higher gas/food prices may drive this home.


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