Surging COVID Cases Means Stocked Pantries: Consumers Stockpiling More Now Than in March

Shopkick survey finds rising concerns about COVID are leading to empty store shelves as consumers revert to stocking up

COVID cases are surging in record-breaking numbers across the country. As a result, consumers are again adjusting their shopping habits. Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) are more concerned about the pandemic now than just a month ago, leading shoppers to stockpile essentials at higher rates than at the start of the pandemic.

Shopkick surveyed nearly 8,000 consumers across the country to gain insights into how the uptick in national COVID cases is impacting shopping habits. The findings help illuminate the current state of consumer behavior.

Key Trends Include:

  • Steady In-Store Shopping: Increasing numbers of COVID cases and the return of state restrictions do not seem to be stopping consumers from heading in-store for essentials. According to 92 percent of Americans, someone in their household is still purchasing essential items from physical stores, including big box retailers (88 percent), grocery stores (80 percent), drug stores (61 percent), dollar stores (54 percent), club stores (43 percent), and convenience stores (30 percent).
  • Consumer Discomfort: Although most are still shopping in-store, 36 percent of consumers feel less comfortable doing so now than a month ago. In fact, almost half of Baby Boomers (47 percent) say they are taking fewer store trips per week than one month ago, compared to Gen X (43 percent), Millennials (38 percent), and Gen Z (38 percent).
  • Stockpile Spike: Sixty-one percent of consumers say they are stocking up on essentials like toilet paper (87 percent), food items and water (85 percent), cleaning supplies (67 percent), hand sanitizer (61 percent), medicine and medical items (48 percent), and pet supplies (37 percent). This is a noticeable jump from the first wave of COVID in March, when a Shopkick survey found that less than half of consumers (47 percent) were stocking their pantries.
  • T. P. Troubles: With more people stocking up, items like toilet paper have become a hot commodity, yet again. Seventy-six percent of consumers have noticed that essential items that were in-stock a month ago, like toilet paper and cleaning supplies, are now less available at their local store.
  • Keeping an Eye on Cases: Of the 39 percent of consumers who are not currently stockpiling the essentials, nearly half (47 percent) say they will if COVID cases continue to rise at the current rates.
  • More Millennials are Stocking Up: While similar across the board, Millennials are the segment stocking up the most (65 percent), followed by Gen X (62 percent), Gen Z (59 percent), and Baby Boomers (57 percent).

“These findings should serve as a huge wake-up call for retailers and brands,” said Dave Fisch, general manager of Shopkick. “The same issues that severely impacted supply chains during the first wave of COVID have returned as consumers revert to stocking up and panic buying. Retailers and brands must act immediately to implement strategies that will help keep store shelves well-stocked in order to maintain sales and consumer loyalty during this time.

This survey was conducted online between Nov. 23 and Nov. 25, 2020.

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Apu Battan

Head of User Growth

Apu Battan is the Head of User Growth at Shopkick.

Apu is first and foremost an analytics leader, with close to 15 years of experience in helping to make decisions through the objective lens of data. Apu has always been a strong advocate for Shopkick’s most valuable customer — the user. He is passionate about acquiring the right users for our business, delighting them with the best product experience, and growing them into loyal, high-value users in the long term. Prior to Shopkick, Apu served as an Analytics Leader at Intuit for close to six years, and at Netflix, Electronic Arts, and Microsoft before that. 

Apu holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science,  and a master’s degree in integrated manufacturing and systems engineering from North Carolina State University, Raleigh.