(AP) How much do the grocery stores make?
That depends on who you ask.
The answer may surprise you.
According to the National Retail Federation, the average grocery store makes about $8.37 per square foot and that number includes food, fuel, supplies, and other services.
That is lower than the $9.40 per square feet at Walmart, $10.12 at Target and $12.78 at Costco.
The average is also lower than what it was at the height of the recession in 2009, when the average cost of a square foot of grocery store space was about $16.49.
That was before a surge in online shopping.
The grocery store is still a large business, but the number of customers it serves has been shrinking for years, said Greg Bickley, senior vice president of the trade group.
That trend has been fueled by online shopping and the rise of e-commerce, which is making grocery shopping more accessible and cheaper than ever.
“When I talk to people, they think the big chains are making money, but they’re not,” Bickry said.
The growth of online shopping has brought down the cost of groceries, too.
The rise of online sales, in which retailers and consumers sell goods online, has also made it easier for customers to find the items they want.
In the first nine months of the year, online sales accounted for about 12% of all U.S. sales, according to Nielsen.
Online shopping has also pushed up prices for consumers, which makes it harder for many to afford the cost.
In the last decade, online shopping grew to about 20% of total sales, but as more and more Americans opt out of traditional retailers and use online sites, prices have continued to rise.
For example, online retailers like Amazon have slashed prices and added features, but that has not helped the average shopper, said Paul Gorman, president of Gorman Group, a retail consulting firm.
Online sales have been a boon for retailers, but it’s hard to measure how much of that growth has been driven by online shoppers.
“We don’t have any numbers to tell you,” he said.
“We just don’t know.”
In the short term, some retailers have been able to make money through online sales.
For example, Amazon.com reported last week that its online sales grew 20% last quarter, bringing the company’s total for the year to about $9 billion.
But it’s impossible to know whether the gains are a result of online shoppers buying more items, or whether the company is simply taking advantage of the boom in online sales and making money on the sale of those items.
For some shoppers, that makes the convenience of online purchases even more appealing.
But for others, the increased convenience is not enough to justify the higher prices and shipping costs.
Some grocery stores are starting to realize they can no longer make a living off the backs of online buyers.
In May, the National Grocers Association announced a plan to cut back on online purchases, cutting off customers who use the company platform, like Amazon and eBay.
But for some grocery store owners, the new business model is not working out.
“I am not going to make more money than I already make,” said Gary R. Guglielmi, the owner of The Greenmarket in Burlington, V.I. “I don’t need to.”
The Greenmarket sells produce from its farm and other locally grown items and is struggling to make ends meet.
Guglielli said he has lost money on his own and his business, and he and his wife, a retired nurse, had to take out a loan to get their food in order.
The business, which has sold about 100 pounds of produce in the last three years, was able to pay off the loan last year, but is still struggling to pay its bills, said Gugilini, who has since moved to a different grocery store.
The store has had to cut hours and stop delivering meals, and is relying more on online sales than traditional retailers.
The Greenfield will likely shut down for good by the end of the month.
The Vermont-based company has a reputation for providing a high-quality product at a fair price, but many shoppers say they do not like the convenience and are more willing to pay higher prices for the products they prefer.
Randy Guglia, who works for a software company, said he does not buy as many organic products as he used to.
He has a problem buying the products because he does so at a time when there is a growing demand for produce.
“It’s not worth it anymore,” he added.