Exclusive Research Shows Coronavirus Pandemic Is Driving Grocery Shoppers to Convenience Stores

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Exclusive Research Shows Coronavirus Pandemic Is Driving Grocery Shoppers to Convenience Stores

By Don Longo - 03/24/2020

NATIONAL REPORT — Among the many change-of-life impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, convenience stores are seeing an increase in shoppers who typically would go to supermarkets for their grocery needs.

Fifteen percent of shoppers said they are more likely to shop at convenience stores for groceries due to the pandemic, according to a new study conducted by Convenience Store News’ parent company, EnsembleIQ. Fielded March 13-15, the survey was conducted among 1,001 primary household grocery shoppers in the United States.

Almost half of the respondents (44 percent) say they are stocking up on cleaning supplies, medications, personal care items and food to keep themselves healthy and prepared for whatever may come next.

Regardless of where shoppers typically shop for groceries, they are now turning to online shopping more often as a result of the pandemic, according to the findings.

Convenience stores also are capturing more shoppers, as are drug and dollar stores. Interestingly, many shoppers are going to specialty/natural stores more often, too.

Besides an increase in grocery shopping at c-stores and other non-supermarket outlets, the research revealed other behavioral changes, including a significant increase in online ordering and use of out-of-store pickup options.

Among shoppers who are visiting other stores aside from their preferred stores, 58 percent say it is due to product availability, while 34 percent say the substitute location is more convenient at a time when they do not want to travel further than they have to.

Other highlights from the findings include:

  • 23 percent of shoppers are making a fill-in shopping trip more often due to the pandemic, especially millennials.
  • 22 percent of shoppers are making a quick shopping trip for one to five items more often due to the pandemic, especially urban consumers.
  • 19 percent of shoppers are shopping more often for immediate consumption than they did before the pandemic, especially urban consumers and millennials.
  • 27 percent of shoppers who typically shop at convenience stores for groceries have a high level of trust that retailers are ensuring safe handling when preparing and delivering orders. In comparison, only 16 percent to 17 percent of shoppers who typically shop at grocery stores or supercenters for groceries have a high level of trust.

In addition, 24 percent say their typical shopping time of day has changed due to the pandemic. Sixty-one percent of these shoppers are shopping at different times to avoid crowds. Thirty-four percent are shopping at different times when they think the store is cleaner, while 41 percent are going when they think more products will be available. Twenty percent are shopping around modified school schedules, and 11 percent around modified work schedules.

When it comes to purchasing food, 19 percent are more likely to buy food online for in-store pickup due to the pandemic. This is especially true among men, urban consumers, and younger consumers.

Eighteen percent are more likely to buy food online for delivery due to the pandemic, and 18 percent are more likely to buy food online for curbside pickup.

In addition to food, 83 percent of shoppers feel household supplies and paper goods are important to have on hand right now. This is especially true among women, Gen Xers and urban consumers.

Seventy-five percent feel OTC (over-the-counter) medication is important to have on hand right now, with the highest percentages coming from women, Gen Xers and rural consumers.

And 82 percent feel personal care items are important to have on hand right now, especially among Gen Xers, urban and rural consumers, and consumers in the South and Northeast U.S.

The study urges retailers and brands to think twice before abandoning all promotional activity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic because many shoppers are still looking for deals as they stock up for an uncertain future.

Three key takeaways about the state of shopping behavior at this point in time are:

  1. Shoppers are still “shopping;”
  2. Online shopping is growing; and
  3. Shoppers are ready to stay loyal.

For more on the study’s findings, click here.