Although consumers are no longer engaging in the bulk shopping of the early pandemic, when center store products like household goods, paper products and shelf-stable grocery items were in high demand, current shopping behaviors still reflect the surge in home cooking and eating that originated with COVID lockdowns and continue to boost center store sales — even with most Americans returning to work and school. And COVID continues to impact consumer shopping behaviors, particularly with the emergence of the Delta variant this summer.
Indeed, nearly half (45%) of retailers say that the coronavirus pandemic led to increased sales of more than 10% in center store, with 18% seeing increased sales of 5% to 9.9% and 19% with increased sales of 0 to 4.9%.
The news is even better for center store dollar sales in 2021, as 80% of retailers expect sales to remain the same or increase this year. A full 20% of retailers anticipate dollar sales increases of more than 10%, while 24% expect increases of 5% to 10% and another 21% expect increases of 2% to 4.9%.
Those are among the findings of this year’s Supermarket News Center Store Trends Report, based on responses from 110 food retailers and wholesalers, surveyed throughout August 2021.
The top-selling center store categories during COVID have shifted since our 2020 study. The same three categories rank in the top three, but the order has changed and their numbers have dropped. In 2021, shelf-stable food/grocery, household cleaners and paper goods landed in a virtual tie with 56% to 57% of retailers citing those as biggest-selling categories in center store. A year ago, during the onset and early peaks of COVID, the order was household cleaners (73%), paper goods (71%) and shelf-stable food/grocery (60%).
Here is a detailed look at the survey results.