As grocery retailers adjust store operations in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Americans are upping their purchases of supplies, with consumers spending an average of $178.44, according to LendingTree.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based online loan marketplace said that 63% of Americans have bought products to prepare for lifestyle changes amid the nationwide spread of COVID-19. Purchases range from food and alcohol to medication and cleaning products.
LendingTree’s study, conducted by Qualtrics, is based on an online survey of 1,050 Americans, including 664 who purchased supplies through March 13.
The most popular purchases among those who stockpiled included cleaning supplies (77%), food (69%), paper products such as toilet paper (68%), water (62%), medication or vitamins (47%), alcohol (24%) entertainment items such as books or movies (13%) and office supplies (6%).
By generation, Millennials spent the most ($195.23) in stockpiling for a coronavirus quarantine, followed by Generation Xers ($179.24) and Baby Boomers ($150.88).
Source: LendingTree survey of 1,050 Americans, including 664 who purchased supplies as of March 13, 2020.
“If you’re wondering who may be to blame for a toilet paper shortage at your local supermarket, one generation outspent the rest when it comes to paper products: Baby Boomers. Eight in 10 Baby Boomers who stockpiled supplies admit to buying paper products during their shopping excursions,” LendingTree said in its study. “Millennials, meanwhile, admitted to buying cleaning supplies (77%), food (70%), water (67%), paper products (62%) and medication/vitamins (54%). Compared with other generations, they also spent the most on entertainment, such as games, books and movies. Gen Xers spent the most on a different type of entertainment: alcohol (29%).”
Parents of children younger than 18 spent $189.80 on supplies, more than $11 above the average among survey respondents, LendingTree reported. Higher earners, those earning $100,00 or more, spent an average $219.90 on supplies.
“Our survey found that earners in the top two income tiers ($75,000 and above) had an edge while buying COVID-19 provisions, spending over $200. Most Americans spent less than $180, and Americans who earned less than $25,000 spent closer to $150,” LendingTree noted.
“It’s expensive having kids, even more so while preparing for an emergency,” the study said. “In contrast to child-free Americans, parents of young children spent more while stockpiling for a coronavirus outbreak.”
Consumers’ rush to build up an emergency supply of food and other essentials -- emptying store shelves in various categories -- has grocery retailers instituting various changes, primarily around operating hours.
Vivek Sankaran, CEO of Albertsons Cos. (Photo courtesy of Albertsons)
For example, Albertsons Cos., with over 2,200 stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia, is designating special shopping hours for senior citizens and other at-risk populations, such as pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems, who have been advised to avoid leaving home as much as possible. At a minimum, every Tuesday and Thursday, only seniors and other vulnerable customers will be able to shop from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. The retailer’s 20 store banners include Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs.
"We are sensitive to the fact that everyone wants to make sure they have the items they need, and we also know that everyone wants their neighbors to stay safe and healthy,” Albertsons Cos. President and CEO Vivek Sankaran said in a statement. “We are asking our customers to respect these special hours for those who are most at risk in our communities. We thank our customers in advance for their compassion and understanding toward their neighbors and friends, and in helping us maintain this temporary operations guideline.”
Other coronavirus measures taken by grocery retailers related include the following:
H-E-B: Texas grocer H-E-B is offering free next-day curbside pickup and $5 home delivery for online grocery orders. “We understand that time slots for these services are filling up fast and may be booked several days out. To meet demand, we’re working as quickly as possible to increase our capacity and build new time slots, and our partners are working around the clock on innovative options to get all customers the products they need, when and where they need them,” H-E-B said in a statement.
To further promote social distancing, H-E-B also has begun doorstep delivery for all home delivery orders. Delivery drivers will now leave these orders at the customer’s doorstep, eliminating close personal interaction. “As an added precaution, curbside and home delivery customers no longer need to touch the mobile device screen to acknowledge their order was received,” the company said.
H-E-B added that it’s doing its best to fulfill online orders. “As we have temporary purchase limits in place and are working to restock shelves, our personal shoppers will fill curbside and home delivery orders as completely as they can. In some cases, we might need to substitute a customer’s preferred brand for another, but we will always prioritize getting our customers the products they need.”
RALEY’S: Western grocer Raley’s has implemented a two-item purchase limit in such categories as milk, eggs, water, fresh packaged chicken and paper products.
“We are offering a special program for seniors and at-risk customers in self-isolation or quarantine. It consists of offering a preselected bag of fresh items and pantry staples at a discounted price of $20 that can be picked up at the store by a family member, friend or caregiver,” Raley’s said. The chain also is urging eCart online customers to place orders at least 48 hours in advance and to select pickup instead of delivery service. “Effective March 18, we will be adjusting our pickup and delivery windows to four different times of the day,” the company added.
THE GIANT COMPANY: The former Giant Food Stores on Thursday plans to change store hours to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to give associates more time to sanitize, unload deliveries, stock shelves and better serve customers throughout the day. Also starting March 19, all Giant, Martin’s and Giant Heirloom Market stores will open from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily only for customers ages 60 and older, whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified as most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Carlisle, Pa.-based Giant, too, has placed two-item limits on key categories throughout the store, including paper goods and disinfectant products. And to meet increased demand during the COVID-19 emergency, the chain is hiring temporary and part-time workers across its store banners, including service associates, cashiers, general stock clerks, drivers and fulfillment center selectors.
HARPS: Midwestern grocer Harps Food Stores is offering free home delivery for customers who are considered higher-risk for coronavirus. Customers can shop online at shop.harpsfood.com or via the Instacart app. The offer runs through March 31 and applies to a $35 minimum purchase.
CUB FOODS: Starting March 18, 13 Cub Foods stores throughout the Twin Cities metro and greater Minnesota areas will continue to operate for 24 hours-a-day, and select pharmacy locations will expand their service hours. Other stores will temporarily reduce operating hours to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Cub also is reserving the first hour of each day, from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., for shopping by elderly and other high-risk populations, along with health care workers and first responders.
“Cub is focused on remaining open as many hours as possible to meet the needs of our communities while allowing us time to restock and condition the store,” CEO Mike Stigers said in a statement. “There is ample food supply to meet the normal needs of all Minnesotans, and deliveries are happening at stores throughout each day, containing fresh and non-perishable grocery products to restock shelves. Our associates continue to work hard and embrace their role as a critical provider of essential food and grocery items for their neighborhoods.”
BASHAS’: All Bashas’, Food City and AJ’s grocery stores on March 18 began opening at 5 a.m. to hold a one-hour shopping time slot for people ages 65 and older. Bashas’ reservation stores will be open 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for that age group. Shoppers must show a valid ID at the door, and seniors can have one caretaker assist them in shopping, though caretakers won’t be able to shop for themselves, Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’ said.
STATER BROS.: All 169 Stater Bros. Markets in Southern California have modified store hours to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. to enable restocking of merchandise and more thorough store cleaning. For seniors, all stores also will open earlier, at 7:45 a.m. Stater Bros., too, has asked customers to shop only for their weekly needs and consider shopping at times other than first thing in the morning to reduce crowding.
“We really need the community’s help to continue to operate and work towards getting back to normal,” Stater Bros. CEO Pete Van Helden commented. “I also ask our customers, please continue to be patient with members of the Stater Bros. Family who are working extremely long hours to meet your needs.”
VALLARTA SUPERMARKETS: Exclusive shopping hours for seniors, pregnant women and people with disabilities, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., went into effect March 18 at all 50 Vallarta Supermarkets locations in California. The Los Angeles-based grocer said hours for all other customers are now 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The chain also has implemented purchase limits for certain products and suspended food and beverage sampling and shut self-serve food stations.
HY-VEE: All Hy-Vee grocery stores enacted 8 p.m. closing times as of March 18, with convenience stores maintaining normal hours. For customers ages 60 and older, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions, the Midwestern grocer has reserved a 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. shopping time. The company said all in-store dining areas have been closed, with foodservice purchases limited to carry-out only. Deliveries for Hy-Vee Aisles Online customers will now be made by third-party partners, including Shipt and DoorDash, where available. Hy-Vee, too, said it has suspended its weekly advertising circular because it can’t guarantee availability for certain products due to high demand.
“This is an unprecedented situation for all of us. We’ve never dealt with anything like this before, and we know our customers haven’t either,” stated Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chairman, CEO and president. “We appreciate their patience and loyalty as we navigate these changing times.”
TARGET: Beginning March 18, all Target stores will start closing by 9 p.m. local time. The company said the move will provide associates more time to clean stores and restock shelves. Also, each Wednesday, Target will reserve the first hour of shopping at all stores for elderly shoppers and those with underlying health issues. All Target Cafés, Pizza Huts, snack bars, beverage bars and Starbucks seating areas also will be shut.
PUBLIX: For additional preventive sanitation and extra time to restock products on shelves, Publix Super Markets is temporarily adjusting daily store hours chainwide to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. effective March 18. In addition, in-store pharmacy hours will change to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, with normal pharmacy hours on Sunday, the Southeastern grocer said.
SEDANO’S: Florida chain Sedano’s Supermarket said that starting March 19 will hold 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. as an exclusive shopping time slot for seniors and “immunocompromised members of our communities.” Otherwise, stores are maintain their normal business hours, and the retailer will continue to offer online shopping via the Sedano’s app and website.
“However, due to significantly high volume of online orders, and to ensure that every customer’s order is fully and accurately fulfilled, we have limited the number of online orders,” Sedano’s noted.
SCHNUCKS: St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets said that, “by popular demand from our customers,” the 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily time slot will be reserved for shopping by customers ages 60 and older and for those most at risk of COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions. “We are asking all customers who do not fit into either category to please shop our stores anytime after 7 a.m.,” Schnucks stated. “Making this designation is one small way that we can help to ease the concerns of those who are especially vulnerable. We want to do our part to make them feel more comfortable while picking up their groceries and household items.”