Retail Industry Responsible For Price Hikes Amid COVID-19 Pandemic And Inflation, Report

By on
Shoppers carry bags of purchased merchandise at the King of Prussia Mall, United States' largest retail shopping space, in King of Prussia
Shoppers carry bags of purchased merchandise at the King of Prussia Mall, United States' largest retail shopping space, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 8, 2018.

While inflation has risen to record levels over the past year, leading to rising prices of goods, some companies have taken advantage of the situation.

A new report by Accountable.US reveals that some companies, in an effort to increase profits, engaged in price gouging and rose costs exponentially on consumers both during the COVID-19 pandemic and as inflation started to grow. The report named companies that were found to have engaged in the practice.

To find the companies responsible, Accountable examined financial statements from top retailers in the United States over the past two years to determine which ones were most responsible for rising prices. The list includes Amazon, the e-commerce giant that recently announced rises in prices for their consumers and subscribers.

"Though wages have grown during the pandemic, these increases have been largely 'canceled' out by rising prices," the report reads.

The report also includes Walmart, Home Depot, Costco, Lowe's, CVS Health, Target, TJX Companies, Dollar General and Kroger as companies that have made a huge profit by raising consumer prices over the past two years.

"Overall, prices on common goods and services increased by 7% from December 2020 to December 2021. Unfortunately, the most recent CPI report suggests this pattern will continue," the report summarizes.

For these companies, ranked by market capitalization, the report concludes that they made $24.6 billion in increased profits for the most recent fiscal years, 2020 and 2021, for a total of $99 billion in profit. Despite supply chain disruptions, sales during the 2021 holiday season helped drive these companies to record profits.

"The biggest corporations have seen near-record margins in 2021 because they were able to raise prices. Retailers, in particular, saw sales reaching 'an all-time high growth rate in 2021' and are expected to continue to grow by 6-8% in 2022," amid inflation, the report concludes.

Overall, while inflation seems to be a big deal for consumers, companies seem to be riding the storm well. In fact, according to CBS, companies enjoyed their most profitable year since the 1950s in 2021.

Those profits have largely been used to compensate CEOs, rising the gap between CEO pay and that of employees. The profits have also been used to give benefits to shareholders, including increased dividends and stock buybacks.

Home Depot responded to the report to CBS MoneyWatch by stating it is "continuously working with our suppliers to keep costs as low as possible for our customers" asserting that its growth "has been based on overwhelming demand in home improvement."


US retailers posted a big increase in sales in January, following an unexpected slump the month prior
US retailers posted a big increase in sales in January, following an unexpected slump the month prior
Photo: AFP / Frederic J. BROWN

Join the Discussion