Walmart Prices: A Window into the World's Economic Landscape

Walmart Prices: A Window into the World's Economic Landscape

Want to know what Walmart prices can tell you about the global economy? You might learn a lot more than you think from your shopping cart. NPR tracked the prices of a single Walmart store in Georgia since mid-2019, and the results might surprise you.

Overall Changes in Walmart Prices

On average, prices have gone up 23% since 2019. And you can blame much of it on the pandemic and the chaos it brought to global supply chains, on top of other key factors like The Great Resignation raising wages and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupting food and energy trade, NPR cites.

1. Shrinkflation is not in your head.

The phenomenon known as shrinkflation is where the size or quantity of a product decreases while the price remains the same or higher. It also includes the practice of changing formulas or using lower-quality ingredients. It’s like a cruel game of hide and seek with your wallet. So, we recommend checking the price per unit to really assess price changes.

  • Tide detergent: Decreased from 100 oz. in 2019 to 92 oz., and increased price by a buck from $11.97 to $12.97.
  • Dove soap: Decreased 10-pack of 4 oz. bars to an 8-pack of 3.75 oz. bars, and increased the price by 9 cents.

2. Products are just more expensive.

Walmart says they try to keep prices as stable as possible and even use their big-name power to pressure suppliers for the best deals. But even they can’t escape the grip of inflation.

  • Mechanical pencils: Paper Mate +86%
  • Old-fashioned oats: Quaker Oats +73%
  • Paper towels: Bounty +67%
  • Eggs: Eggland’s Best→Great Value +66%
  • Grape jelly: Welch’s +55%

You can search for the price changes of dozens of other products in the main article.

3. There are plenty of lesser-covered supply chain issues impacting prices.

  • Wood and wood pulp supply issues increased paper products.
  • Severe droughts affected North American oat harvests.
  • Avian flu is currently ravaging hen populations.
  • Aluminum products have faced turbulent tariffs.

4. Yet, some Walmart prices have managed to stay the same or gone cheaper.

For some items like electronics, prices have dipped. A Vizio 32-inch TV dropped 14%. On top of that, Walmart has started selling private brands that are usually more profitable, giving them more room to lure shoppers with lower prices.

5. Where our goods are coming from remains unchanged.

Products mostly come from the same places as in 2019, except for that Vizio TV, which now comes from Vietnam instead of China. But economists say in the future we may see more products being sourced from outside China as new trade lines are being drawn.

So, next time you’re at Walmart, don’t just grab whatever is on your list, take a closer look at the price tags and see the impact of the global economy on your shopping cart. Oh, and by the way, we hear the shrimp is on sale.

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