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Grocery customer spending rose 6% from $310 to $330 per month on average in August, while shopping trips fell almost 11% versus a year ago, Catalina reported.

Grocery basket size up, store trips down 6 months into pandemic

Food shopper spending per trip jumped 19% in August, Catalina says

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. grocery shoppers are settling into a new routine, with the number of monthly store visits declining nearly twice as fast as spending has risen, according to digital marketing specialist Catalina.

In August, grocery customer spending rose 6% from $310 to $330 per month on average, while shopping trips fell almost 11% versus a year ago, Catalina said Wednesday.

The United States declared coronavirus as a national emergency on March 13, two days after the World Health Organization declared the spread of the virus as a pandemic. Looking at the past six months of grocery purchase data, Catalina said shoppers made more trips than average in March as the health crisis set in and then slashed their number of store trips in April as they locked down at home. New patterns emerged in May that continue to the present day, with the number of grocery store trips down about 10% from May through August.

Last month, grocery shoppers made an average of 6.7 retailer trips per month, down from 7.5 trips in Aug. 2019, a decrease of nearly 11%. However, basket size has swelled 19%, with customers spending an average of $49.28 per trip compared with $41.38 a year ago, a trend that has been consistent since June, St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Catalina noted.

On a monthly basis, the $20 uptick in average grocery spending in August followed more dramatic growth from March to May, which started to come down in June, Catalina said.

“Our data scientists and advanced analytics teams have been mining Catalina’s unparalleled Buyer Intelligence Database, which captures up to three years of purchase history and more than 2 billion Universal Product Codes that are scanned daily in the U.S., to track how buying behavior and decisions have continued to shift since concerns over COVID-19 took hold earlier this year,” explained Chief Marketing Officer Marta Cyhan. “These real-time insights have helped our retail and brand customers adjust their marketing, media and activation strategies, while also helping to inform their stocking and supply chain decisions.”


In early April, Catalina launched a COVID-19 Interactive Map on its website to report sales data across 78 major grocery and drug categories from states nationwide, as well as the District of Columbia, going back to the week ending Feb. 15, when COVID-19 awareness and concerns began to gain traction. The company said that although the top six categories over the past six months jumped around between March and May, they have held the same ranking for the past three months.

Sales gains “continued unabated” in the following categories in August: home health testing kits and face masks, up 367% year over year; liquid hand soap, up 224%; disinfectant cleaners, up 212%; light/turkey/chicken bacon, up 121%; dry/refrigerated yeast, up 103%; and produce/wash-and-rinse cleaners, up 102%.

“Notably, face masks account for 80% of the home health testing category, which accounts for the strong sales surge as more governing bodies emphasize the importance of wearing face coverings to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19,” Catalina stated.

For the six months beginning in March through August, sales jumped 286% year over year in liquid hand soap, 259% in home health testing kits and face masks, 212% in disinfectant cleaners, 189% in frozen meal starters, 126% in shelf-stable/refrigerated meat substitutes and 117% in dry/refrigerated yeast, according to Catalina.

“Due to the pandemic, many new buyers came into center store categories that were declining in 2019. We are partnering with our clients to convert those buyers from panic buyers to loyal buyers,” Cyhan added. “We will continue to monitor our Buyer Intelligence Database to keep our customers informed of changing shopping behaviors and sales impacts, including when purchase cycles become more predictable, because this will have a big impact on supply chains and give marketers and retailers valuable insights on how and when to best market their brands.”

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