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Of consumers surveyed by Inmar, 27% plan to do most of their grocery shopping at stores once fully vaccinated against COVID.

U.S. grocery shoppers head back to stores as COVID-19 vaccinations rise

Over a third plan to buy food both in-store and online, Inmar survey reveals

U.S. grocery shoppers are gradually returning to in-store purchases as more Americans receive COVID-19 vaccines, a new survey from Inmar Intelligence finds.

Once fully vaccinated, 27% of consumers said they plan to do most of their grocery shopping at stores, while 38% will do so both in-store and online, Inmar said Tuesday.

Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Inmar noted that food shoppers already have been coming back to physical stores. The survey revealed that 33% of U.S. consumers are now buying their groceries in stores, with 48% of respondents remaining as hybrid shoppers making brick-and-mortar and online purchases, indicating a “steady return to normalcy” and a higher level of comfort with in-store shopping, according to Inmar.

“As vaccines become more widely available, it is natural that today’s shoppers choose to head back into the store as a part of their grocery shopping routine,” Spencer Baird, executive vice president at Inmar and president of its MarTech division, said in a statement. “Most consumers are familiar with an in-store shopping experience — browsing and discovering new products — and there are some products that shoppers prefer to buy in-store.”


Nearly a third of U.S. consumers are now purchasing their groceries in stores, Inmar found.

Interestingly, 51% of respondents said they still plan to stockpile groceries throughout the year, reported Inmar, a provider of data-driven technology services for retailers and manufacturers, among others. In embracing this longer-term “be prepared” mentality, 38% of those polled aim to stock up on toilet paper, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, food and alcohol, as millions of Americans did in the early months of the coronavirus crisis. 

Despite the gravitation back to in-store grocery shopping, consumers aren’t abandoning online shopping. Forty-one percent of respondents ordered groceries online for delivery or pickup over the past six months. Online grocery, however, still faces some hurdles, Inmar found. Shoppers polled cited delivery surcharges (18%), quality of groceries delivered (16%) and delivery time slot availability (14%) as the chief obstacles in online grocery delivery.

Americans also are eager to return to dining out. As more restaurants and bars start reopening, 85% of consumers said they plan to eat out more often, including indoor or outdoor dining, Inmar said.

“The survey found that as consumers head back to the physical store, they plan to continue stockpiling everyday items, indicating the importance of longer-term preparedness,” Baird added. “Retailers must prepare for this longer-term shift, not only in terms of stock, but also providing today’s hybrid shoppers with a seamless omnichannel experience across a variety of touchpoints. No matter the age, shoppers expect to receive personalization, convenience and cost savings during each of their grocery trips.”

Consumers exercise caution in getting back to normal

Inmar’s findings also are reflected in the latest Consumer Pulse data from New York-based market researcher Gfk North America.

Among U.S. consumers, an average of 35% have made more visits to supermarkets and grocery stores since receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, while 38% have gone to restaurants more frequently, Gfk reported. The percentages are noticeably higher in the 26-to-35 age group: 52% have made more visits to supermarkets/grocery stores after getting vaccinated against COVID, and 51% have stepped up visits to restaurants.


Just over half of 26- to 35-year-old shoppers polled by Gfk made more visits to grocery stores after becoming immunized against COVID.

Overall, 57% of those surveyed said they’re cautious about going back to normal activities, compared with 21% who “can’t wait to get out and do the things they have been missing,” Gfk said. Surprisingly, 64% of those who have been vaccinated said they will be careful, versus 55% of those who haven’t received the vaccine.

Sixty-one percent of consumers vaccinated report that they are living as they did before the pandemic, compared with 49% of those who have been immunized against coronavirus. Among consumers who say they are living normally now, 42% of the non-vaccinated said they have been doing so throughout the pandemic, whereas 53% of vaccinated consumers only began living that way within the past two months.

Through the morning of April 27, 42.7% of the U.S. population had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, with 29.1% fully immunized, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Among adults, 54.2% had received at least one dose, with 37.3% fully vaccinated. Overall, 232.4 million of the 297.5 million vaccines delivered by manufacturers had been administered.

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