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How Do Grocery Stores Make Money and Turn Massive Profit?

Grocery stores are known to sell food and other household items. Sometimes called supermarkets, grocery stores are the go-to sources for a home’s food needs. They also sell important kitchen utensils, disposable items, cleaning materials, candy, alcohol, soft drinks, self-care items and much more.

Grocery stores when staffed with the right people, run like a well-oiled machine. They provide a service and don’t typically sell a product of their own unless they have a large prepared food section. Instead, they buy existing products from distributors to sell to customers.

Once these products make it to the local store, it is up to that store’s manager and team members to provide the services and resources that attract new customers and retain loyal ones. A grocery store also needs to stock a variety of products. They also have to help customers find, carry, and buy them. These products include ethnic foods, organic foods, frozen foods, and more.

They are also expected to restock any perishable food before its expiration date. In addition, the grocery store will need to stay competitive by offering low-priced options. Daily management includes cleaning, restocking, auditing, and selling.

Also note that a grocery store is expected to have decent parking, even when the store is busy. They also must have nice, wide aisles and competitive prices. They are also meant to have properly staffed checkouts and an atmosphere that makes you want to hang out and shop. There is so much that goes into running a good grocery store, and how they work.

A grocery store is also expected to have a competitive pricing plan. It should also have unique amenities, like a fresh meat deli. Some grocery stores gain competitive advantage by offering in-house craft beer stations too. Over time, a successful grocery store will be a preferred local hotspot. To become this hotspot, you’ll need to browse your area’s demographics—targeting the most lucrative segments.

Grocery stores account for the largest share of food sales within the United States. In 2017 alone, grocery stores accounted for about 90 percent of the country’s overall food and beverage sales.

Notably, the food retail industry is a low-margin, high-volume business. It has a good level of competition, and much of that competition is from well-known providers. If a small grocer doesn’t create a niche selling point, they may be outclassed by the big-box stores.

However, any individual who loves point-of-sale work, food, management, or finance can start and manage a grocery store. The grocery business is competitive, but those who have a knack for making strong selling plans, capital-intensive business plans, or retail plans indeed have a shot. A grocery store owner is meant to understand food very well, and they should have a passion for providing the best food around town.

Common Ways Grocery Stores Make Money

Grocery stores make most of their money by volume selling processed foods, but they also make money by offering fresh meat and produce, cleaning products, and alcohol. The main income of these places comes from leasing their shelves, and every area in the store has a leasing price.

For instance, promotion areas in the front with high visibility are far expensive and offered for lease for shorter periods. These small candy and chewing gum shelves beside the cashier are really expensive because of the high exposure of the brand.

Grocery store prices vary wildly, as they offer a huge selection of products. Lesser food items may cost as little as $1, while packaged meats can cost as much as $20. As a rule of thumb: offer lower prices for multiple purchases. Again, your low-value offers will win you a spot in the local market. Grocery stores typically have a very low profit margin (some as low as 1-2 percent). So they make their money in volume by selling large quantities.

Grocery stores also strive to make money by trying to minimize shrink (theft and spoiled products) and keep labor costs as low as possible, often by hiring more part-time employees (who get fewer benefits). Most large grocery chains earn between 1 and 2 percent net profit whereas specialty grocers including Whole Foods Market typically earn between 5 and 12 percent net profit.

Even though margins for grocery stores are low and there is a lot of competition, conventional chain stores like Publix, Whole Foods, or even Walmart are pretty profitable. But not in terms of a profit margin; just gross dollars. In fact, conventional grocery stores only make 1 and 2 percent bottom-line profit. Compared to other kinds of businesses, that’s pretty low.

In 2016, the average American supermarket had total sales of over $17 million. However, just like it was mentioned above, grocery stores are volume businesses with thin margins, as the average supermarket has a profit margin of just 1 percent to 3 percent.

Even then, a successful independent store can profit up to $300,000 annually. Indeed, these rates vary greatly on the area, the store’s specialty, and its size. For this reason, the average grocery store owner’s typical income and their possible revenue streams are a bit unclear.

Most Profitable items in a Grocery Store

Here are the Top 10 most marked-up items in a grocery store:

  1. Prepared Foods
  2. Vitamins
  3. Body care
  4. Fresh coffee
  5. Reusable shopping bags
  6. Cheese
  7. Deli meat
  8. Produce
  9. Bulk Foods
  10. Frozen Foods


Trying to figure out how grocery stores make money and how much profit they make can be quite tricky. Note that the items with the highest retail mark-up will bring in the most profit per item. But if you only sell one or two of those items, it won’t be very profitable.

On the other hand, mark-up can be lower if you are selling large quantities of items, resulting in higher profit dollars. Notably, the way grocery stores make a profit is by selling volume. So selling more of lower priced items at higher volume will bring in more profit than selling one or two items with a higher mark-up.