A few short months ago, “Inflation” seemed to be the only word headlining the front pages of finance verticals and newspapers. On May 12, Google Trends shared a chart on Twitter which showed that searches for “Inflation” were at an all-time high, followed up by some of the most-searched questions about inflation: “What does inflation mean for stocks?” “What does inflation mean in economics?” “What is transitory inflation?” “How to hedge inflation?” “What happens to interest rates during inflation?”
The writing and analysis surrounding inflation so far has focused on addressing how it will interrupt the ability to make money on the stock market, and whether or not it was just a temporary rise. The price of items on grocery store shelves was a secondary concern, popping up in discussion one month later when the Consumer Price Index, a measurement used by the government to track the change in price of regular consumer goods and gauge cost of living, was reported to have increased by 5% — the largest jump since 2008.
Though the CPI is an important statistic, we're able to track regional variations in prices thanks to an interesting, publicly available data set. Last summer, DoorDash introduced a service called DashMart that customers can use to get convenience or grocery store products delivered to their door. DoorDash has offered delivery for convenience products for some time, partnering with stores across the country. But DashMart has actual stores that are owned and operated by DoorDash. By tracking data from these locations, we can see the shifts in price for essentials like dairy, meats, and medicine in real time — either by specific category or by location — and see how inflation may or may not be affecting them. We tracked the cost of convenience goods in DashMart's 22 cities throughout June, at the peak of the inflation scare, to see how prices were being affected, but zeroed in on 12 in particular.
Of course, there are an infinite number of reasons why the price of pork or Benadryl could go up at your local grocery store, ranging from a truck full of deli meats spilling out on the highway to a shortage of workers at the nearest Benadryl factory, or whatever the place they make allergy meds is called. The cost of a bagel going up or down does not necessarily mean that inflation is or isn’t happening.
|City||Change in DashMart prices|
|Los Gatos, CA||+3.27%|
|San Antonio, TX||+3.01%|
|San Diego, CA||-4.27%|
|Salt Lake City, UT||-4.64%|
What the data showed is that the change in prices vary wildly from location to location. Major cities like San Diego, Chicago, Tucson and Salt Lake City saw decreases ranging from 2% to 5% in the price of most DashMart goods throughout June. Tampa, Florida saw virtually no change at all, while cities like Cincinnati, Ohio and Tempe, Arizona saw prices rise as much as 7% or 10%.
For products, we focused on eight categories across those 12 cities: Meat & Fish, Medicine, Produce, Alcohol, Fresh Food, Dairy & Eggs, Personal Care, and Household. Prices for five of the eight categories decreased throughout the month: Meat & Fish saw the greatest decrease in price at nearly -8%, while Personal Care products had the greatest increase at 5%.
|City||Change in "medicine" prices|
|Las Vegaw, NV||-4.32%|
|Salt Lake City, UT||-7.39%|
|San Diego, CA||-10.4%|
Zooming in one one particular category, Medicine, the variation across cities is significant. Tempe, home to Arizona State University, again saw the greatest increase in price: the price of medicine increased 14.3% throughout the month, with Cincinnati and Indianapolis trailing far behind at 3.6% and 2.5% respectively. Nine of the 12 cities saw medicine prices drop. Prices decreased as much as 10.4% in San Diego and 9.6% in Tucson — only a 90 minute drive away from Tempe.
The latest reports show signs of inflation cooling off, and the cost of groceries available via DashMart in many locations actually went down during the inflation scare. Analysts believe that as the economy reopens in the second half of the year, the causes of the recent inflation hike will begin to settle.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.