It’s not your imagination. Your grocery bills are rising.
Maybe it’s the season. The Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday is historically the busiest day of the year for grocery shoppers, as Americans drop a figurative cornucopia of cash on turkey, trimmings, pie and their beverage of choice.
Then again, it could be the business.
The Federal Trade Commission is so concerned about competition that it recently took unprecedented steps to keep prices in check. The agency just approved a final order settling charges that the $28 billion merger of Koninklijke Ahold and Delhaize Group would likely be anticompetitive. Together, the two companies own five well-known U.S. grocery store chains, including Stop & Shop, Giant, and Martin’s. The companies are required to sell 81 stores to seven divestiture buyers.
Last year, the FTC also forced Albertsons and Safeway to sell 168 supermarkets to settle charges that their proposed $9.2 billion merger would likely be anticompetitive in 130 local markets in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
“Consumers everywhere rely on local supermarkets for their weekly shopping needs,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “Absent a remedy, this acquisition would likely lead to higher prices and lower quality for supermarket shoppers in 130 communities.”
All of which raises important questions: Are grocery bills too high? Is the business competitive enough? And what, if anything, can anyone do to make them more competitive?