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Is coronavirus stockpiling on the horizon for grocery stories—and their consumers?

coronavirus stockpiling empty supermarket shelves
Photo via Dan Keck/Flickr (Public Domain)

A survey of U.S. consumers shows that more than half are contemplating “coronavirus stockpiling”—the purchasing of backup groceries and other essential items as winter approaches, the U.S. appears to be entering the third wave of the pandemic, and the country regularly exceeds more than 100,000 new cases per day in November.

The survey results, which were released Oct. 27 by North Carolina-based Inmar Intelligence, were reported by the Supermarket News trade website.

The survey found 57% of shoppers surveyed are now deciding whether to replenish their stock of goods gathered at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, 54% of respondents aim to be prepared with a constant, ready stockpile of key items going forward. They expressed concern that stores would run out of certain items as they did in the spring.

The survey also looked at coronavirus stockpiling behaviors when the pandemic initially reached the U.S. in March. The survey found 64% created a stockpile of products at the pandemic’s outset, and 57% said they still have products stockpiled from that initial round of purchasing.

Unsurprisingly, the top two items on consumers’ lists of coronavirus supplies were toilet paper, with 67% of respondents saying they’d create a reserve, and hand sanitizer, with 57% planning to stock up. Other popular store list items included canned goods (54%), disinfecting wipes (53%), and paper towels (52%).

The survey also noted some consumers got perspective from the spring shortages, listing items to gather that they didn’t think about with their first attempts at coronavirus stockpiling. Frozen dinners, pasta, snacks, and cleaning products are among the new items topping the lists.

Consumers aren’t the only ones preparing for coronavirus stockpiling. As the Kansas City Star reported, the nation’s grocery stores are also preparing for an influx of shoppers.

“The supplies of household staples that were in short supply at the onset of the pandemic such as toilet paper, bleach, hand sanitizer, and hand wipes have improved,” said Felix Turner, corporate affairs manager for Kroger. “Items in high demand that are selling out quickly include paper towels, certain surface cleaners, and surface cleaning wipes.”

Despite the preparations being made, some grocers are concerned they could repeat the scenes of empty shelves from March and April. And it’s already happening in some Walmarts, while Kroger and Publix in November began limiting the amount of toilet paper and paper towels customers can buy.

“(Shoppers) say that they won’t get caught without what they need again,” noted Chris Mentzer, the director of operations for Rastelli Market Fresh in New Jersey. “To compound the shortages, the customers that weren’t buying before are now buying extra, so the shortages are starting to impact stock levels.”

Sources: Supermarket News, Kansas City Star


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