The current COVID-19 world is filled with news stories about consumers hoarding goods and images of empty shelves. Those empty shelves seem to be connected with images of shoppers pushing carts full. They would have been more accurate to link those empty shelves with the photos of shoppers waiting in line to walk the aisles.
The Numerator data analysis tells a new, deeper story. This analysis looked at the average weekly buying habits of 100,000 panelists, who were representative of the U.S. population. It identified three thresholds for in-store stockpiling behavior: stock-up, pantry-fill, and hoarding (also known by extended event prep), which are 1.5x, 2.5x, and 4x respectively.
This is what the analysis revealed and what analysts, retailers, and brands need to know about stockpiling.
- Stockpiling behavior naturally occurs over time, irrespective of COVID-19. An estimated 22 percent households purchase at the pantry-fill level. 6.5 percent display stocking up behavior and 2 percent at hoarding levels.
- Stockpiling tends toward lower-income households during “normal” times. Then, there are smaller fill-in trips.
- Higher-income households stockpiled more during COVID-19 — because they have the money. Households earning $60,000-$80,000 per year will see an increase in stockpiling. They index at 112 instead of “their” average behavior. This index rises to 120 after reaching the $100,000 annual income threshold.
The real challenge for retailers and brands is to understand the impact of stockpiling behavior during the COVID-19 era and to see the delta between these behaviors and organic stockpiling behavior that was part of consumers’ everyday lives.
The Numerator Shopping Behavior Index reveals that:
- In late February and early March, the largest variable was an increase in the number of householdsout-shopping. This means that the primary driver of the increase in household activity in the buying cycle was the longer lines and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. It is less about selfish neighbors.
- The average basket size was actually flat compared to one year ago up until the March 11 Inflection Point (the day Tom & Rita were released, the NBA cancelled their season and European travel restrictions were announced). This means that shoppers were out and about, and once they got in-store, they spent at their usual spend levels.
What happened then after March 11th? The day after March 11 saw a rapid shift in consumer behavior. The Numerator Shopping Indice shows that channel after channel is “moving towards the green” or having overindexing compared to a year ago. This was as of the week ending March 16. It’s almost like a switch turned on (and perhaps it did).
Only in week 11, mid-March, did we see consumers spending more on individual trips. This is because consumer sentiment has not kept up with reality (just as college students refusing to give-up their spring break). A customer Numerator survey found that just 15 percent of respondents rated COVID-19 concern as a 10/10 for the week ending March 17. The same score was increased to 25% in a poll of the same consumers for week ending March 24, when it reached 25 percent.
These same consumers are still most concerned about not being able find products in stock or store hours. Numerator Surveys reveal that 71 percent and 61% of respondents identified these concerns, respectively. Consumer concerns are still high regarding convenience issues, such as stock availability and store hours. Then comes economic worry about job loss. Respondents identified 44 percent of health and well-being concerns, including the ability to obtain insurance for illness and provide support for family members and friends in need. Only 34% of respondents are concerned about the possibility of contracting the disease or having someone in the family get it.
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Hoarding behavior seen in media is an exception. Stockpiling is up and the wealthy may have the privilege to practice this behavior, even though interruptions of plans are more important than concerns about contracting the virus.
Walmart to Hire 50,000 Additional Workers in the Face of Coronavirus Pandemic
Walmart plans to hire another 50,000 associates in order to meet the demand for its merchandise during the coronavirus epidemic, according a blog post by Donna Morris, Walmart’s executive vice-president and chief people officer. Morris also stated that Walmart had met its goal of 150,000 employees in the crisis. Morris stated that Walmart has hired more than 1,000,000 people since announced its hiring goal. Walmart reduced its hiring process from two to 24 hours to speed up hiring. Candidates could apply by text message and worked with over 70 companies to find workers who were displaced due to furloughs in difficult-hit industries like restaurants and hotels. Morris stated that new employees will be hired in Walmart’s clubs, fulfillment centers, stores and distribution centers. He also said that while most of the hiring will be temporary, some may be converted to permanent positions.
Total Retail’s View: There is no doubt that much of the retail industry has experienced a sharp downturn since the outbreak of coronavirus. Retailers that sell essential products, such as groceries, are experiencing a surge of sales and, in some cases, keeping the economy afloat. Kroger, Dollar General and Amazon.com are among the essential retailers that have posted thousands of job openings over the past few weeks. These jobs are often available immediately and do not require any prior experience. They are intended to relieve overstocked stores and warehouses that are dealing with panicked Americans who stock up on toilet paper and canned goods.
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