Last year, people were stockpiling food and essentials at stores and ordering a lot more groceries online. That was great news for America’s biggest grocery chains.

Now companies say the pandemic-time boom is over. Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in this country, said Thursday that it expects comparable sales, or sales at stores open for at least one year, to decline by 3% to 5% this year. Sales increased 14.1% in 2020.

There is now “quite a challenging setup for grocers,” Rupesh Parikh, analyst at Oppenheimer, said in a note to clients Thursday.

Other grocers expect sales slowdowns from a year ago as well. Discount grocer Grocery Outlet said Tuesday that comparable sales in the first quarter of 2021 are likely to decline into the high-single digits. They rose 12.7% last year.

Sprouts Farmers Market grew comparable sales by 6.9% last year, but the chain said sales will decline to low-to-mid-single digits this year. And Walmart projects comparable sales to grow by low single-digits this year, after 8.6% growth last year.

The sales downturn dovetails with the widespread arrival of various vaccines, which makes it possible for consumers to shift back to eating more meals at restaurants and outside of their homes.

Source: CNN Business