How Will Grocery Shopping Change?

The coronavirus crisis has forced shoppers to change habits. Which ones are here to stay?

April 06, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Coronavirus has changed every facet of our lives, including how we shop at grocery stores and convenience stores. Typical shopping and behavioral habits are shifting quickly as consumers navigate this uncertain time.

A poll conducted by L.E.K Consulting from March 18 to 20 found that customers are reining in spending by 40-50% on activities outside the home like dining out, entertainment and fitness, Supermarket News reports. But some are using that for in-home activities instead, such as spending 15-20% more on groceries and cooking six dinners at home every week, instead of three or four.

Americans are doing whatever they need to do to stay safe right now, and since grocery shopping is one of the few essential tasks that gets them outside, many are taking every precaution necessary. This includes stockpiling, with 78% of respondents surveyed by Shopkick saying it makes them feel safer. And they aren’t being picky: 85% said brand names don’t matter right now.

Convenience retailers have seen an increase in sales of grocery staples as customers are turning to their local convenience store for pantry items, a NACS survey released last week indicates. More than half of all retailers (52%) say their grocery sales have increased, according to a national survey of U.S. convenience store owners conducted by NACS.

So, when all this is over, will people keep eating at home more often? Will they continue to hoard the toilet paper? Will baskets remain fuller than normal, and will items per trip totals stay high?

The most lasting change may be grocery delivery and curbside pickup. eMeals said 97% of survey respondents currently ordering groceries online plan to continue doing so in the future. In fact, 39 million households in the U.S. used an online grocery delivery or pickup service in the past month, according to the Brick Meets Click/ShopperKit Online Grocery Shopping Survey conducted March 23 to 25.

“The COVID-19 health crisis has clearly fueled a tremendous surge in demand in the very near term,” said Bill Bishop, chief architect at Brick Meets Click. “And even though some households will not stick with online grocery pickup or delivery services post-crisis, others will shift to this method of shopping going forward for a host of reasons. This is an important shift for the industry, and we will continue to monitor the trends.”

In the NACS survey, retailers said they are exploring programs to enhance convenience: 14% are offering some sort of curbside pickup program, 13% have increased a focus on drive-thru and 11% have added or increased delivery options.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.