The dreaded D: can we avoid Japan's deflation

03/23/2010 01:11:16 PM
Tom Karst

The February consumer price index for food declined slightly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Details below.

It isn't  easy to be a retailer in times of persistent deflation. This morning I read stories on the Web about Wal-Mart's determination to kick start same store sales by cutting grocery prices. Another story that caught my eye was a report about Japan's retail performance, From the story:

Sales at supermarkets in Japan open for at least a year fell 2.4% in February from a year earlier to Y933.3 billion as consumers remained frugal amid falling wages and high unemployment, an industry group said on Tuesday.

It was the 15th consecutive year-on-year drop in supermarket sales following -4.9% in January. The last y/y rise in sales was +0.6% marked in November 2008.

The U.S. has not been a nation of penny pinchers, but the tough economic times are changing the culture of the U.Sl consumers. American supermarkets may not be able to fathom 15 consecutive months of year-on-year sales declines, but unfortunately I see no boom time just around the corner.

Here is the food related consumer price info for February from the BLS:

The food index rose 0.1 percent in February after increasing 0.2  percent in January. The indexes for food away from home and food at  home both rose 0.1 percent. Within the latter group, the index for  meats, poultry, fish, and eggs posted the largest increase among  major grocery store food groups, rising 0.4 percent as the indexes  for pork and for eggs both rose 2.6 percent. The index for other food  at home rose 0.2 percent, and the index for cereals and bakery  products was unchanged. The indexes for fruits and vegetables and for  dairy and related products both decreased 0.1 percent in February fter rising in January, and the nonalcoholic beverages index fell  0.4 percent. Over the last 12 months, the food index declined 0.2  percent, with the index for food away from home rising 1.4 percent  but the food at home index falling 1.5 percent.

The average price numbers for the produce commodities tracked by the BLS:

 



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