Supermarkets had record sales in recent months. Is it because prices have increased during the corona crisis or because we have simply started buying more and more expensive products? investigated it.

Supermarket sales have been peaking since the beginning of March and even Christmas records were easily broken last spring. The turnover of supermarkets is still a lot higher than a year earlier, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

In the meantime it is raining complaints on social media and consumer platforms: the large supermarkets are said to have raised their prices en masse and harm consumers.

"Supermarkets constantly monitor how much a product costs at other supermarkets." Cor Molenaar, professor of e-marketing at Erasmus University

According to this is not the case. "At the start of the corona pandemic, we saw fewer price increases at various supermarkets," says Thijs van der Tuin of the comparison website. "Logically, no company wants to be known as a profiteer during a crisis."

Prices are constantly rising and falling

It is good to realize that supermarket prices are continuously being raised and lowered, says Van der Tuin. "And ultimately prices go up every year, inflation also takes place in the supermarket. That is separate from corona."

"No company wants to be recognized as a profiteer during a crisis." Thijs van der Tuin, co-founder of comparison site Inprijsverhoogd

Van der Tuin has seen slightly more price increases in the past two months than in March and April, according to him a reaction to the period when there have been fewer increases. "All in all, the increases and decreases are currently comparable to other years."

Falling prices, rising prices

A few facts: the price of De Ruijter chocolate sprinkles has fallen since March at all major supermarkets, as has private label lentils in tins at AH and Plus, Page toilet paper at Jumbo and G'woon brown rice at Hoogvliet. Autodrop double-deckers increased in price at AH, as did the Bolletje seed crackers at Jumbo.

Why then do many consumers still have the idea that they have recently been paid for doing their daily shopping? "The same applies to food and drink: it is a question of supply and demand", professor of e-marketing Cor Molenaar (Erasmus University) nuances the price increases and decreases.

"When the demand increases - for example because we eat more avocados during the home work lunch - and the supply remains the same, the price will increase." On the other hand, says Molenaar, supermarkets would not even be able to implement unlimited price increases with impunity, if they wanted to. "Prices are under pressure from competition. Supermarkets constantly monitor how much a product costs at other supermarkets."

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That is why Molenaar also states that the increase in turnover of supermarkets is not due to price increases. "It started with stocking up on toilet paper and other long-life products. Now that we are more at home and eat out less, we are willing to spend more on our groceries. We buy more expensive and more exclusive products, to spoil ourselves and have something of a feeling of happiness. It is not without reason that websites such as also run record sales.

And finally there are the seasonality, which causes prices to vary. For example, strawberries are a lot more expensive now than a few months ago. On the other hand, lettuce and cucumber are on the vegetable shelf for much less.

"It also has to do with the weather," says Molenaar. "These are currently very unfavorable. Home-grown fruit and vegetables are spoiling quickly at the moment and we will see that reflected in the price in the near future."