Sky-high inflation is driving America’s wealthy families to Walmart

Virtually no one is immune to inflation, especially given consumer prices are the highest they’ve been in the last 40 years.

Even America’s wealthiest families are feeling the pinch in some ways.

As they seek refuge from price increases, that group is now increasingly looking to America’s largest value option: Walmart.

The retail giant’s reputation for lower prices is driving more middle- and high-income shoppers to its shelves, Chief Financial Officer John David Rainey told CNBC Tuesday.

Rainey estimated that about three-quarters of Walmart’s market share gains in food came from customers with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more.

“Clearly, they’re stressed from higher gas prices, higher food prices and even housing,” Rainey said.

Shoppers are also value hunting “in terms of quality and quantity,” opting for smaller packages of food and buying items like canned tuna and beans instead of deli meats and beef, Rainey said. And they are increasingly using credit more than debit, he said.

Even as the national average gas price falls back below $4 per gallon, food prices have continued to soar, with grocery prices rising 13.1% in July — the biggest monthly increase since 1979.

“We’re pleased to see more customers choosing Walmart during this inflationary period, and we’re working hard to support them as they prioritize their spending,” CEO Doug McMillon said in the company’s earnings release.

Walmart said it continues to experience a glut of inventory in certain categories like apparel and electronics — to the benefit of consumers. The company said earlier this summer that demand for those goods during the pandemic had caused them to order more than were ultimately needed, creating discounting opportunities for shoppers.

Tuesday, Walmart officials said the company was still working to sell through the extra volumes.

“We made good progress throughout the quarter operationally to improve costs in our supply chain, and that work is ongoing,” McMillon said.