Sparse Grocery Shelves Likely to Continue

A lingering effect from the pandemic will be fewer products in stores.

June 05, 2020

CHICAGO—The coronavirus pandemic has impacted shopping in many ways, one of which are store-imposed buying limits on certain products, such as toilet paper, cereal and cleaning supplies, MSN reports. But one of the lingering effects of the pandemic will likely be a reduction in the number of products on supermarket shelves.

A typical grocery store has around 42,000 different products, but that number will fall drastically in the coming months, according to Phil Lempert, founder of He predicted a fall in demand for last-minute shopping will correspond with fewer items in stores. Lembert’s guess is that Americans will place online orders for pantry essentials, including cereal, canned goods, baking supplies and condiments. They will shop in-store for fresh items, like meat and produce.

While online grocery orders rose significantly during the pandemic, experts see that trend continuing, which would also contribute to emptier shelves. A Nielsen study forecasted online grocery sales would gobble up to 20% of total grocery retail within five years.

Online grocery services such as Thrive Market will likely also drive down product availability at brick-and-mortar grocers. Thrive Market sources high-quality, organic foods from around the United States and sells them at 25% to 50% lower than the standard grocery prices. Those savings will continue to entice shoppers online.

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.