COVID-19 prompts US shoppers to stock up

Grocery stores a bright spot in economic conditions, as total dollar sales per store up 60% as store trips increase 17%, basket sizes increase 37% in mid-March

Credit: PRNewsfoto/Catalina Marketing


US shoppers have been keenly buying up long term food stores and, of course, toilet paper, as lockdown sweeps the country according to sales data from Catalina. Whether this will hold up remains to be seen but consumer behaviours are definitely shifting leaving some big winners and losers in a number of product categories.

"Store trips began growing around March 1st,” said Marta Cyhan, Chief Marketing Officer at Catalina “and really took off last week -- with visits peaking around March 13. For the week ending March 14, total dollar sales per store were up 60%, driven by 17% more shopping trips and basket sizes that increased an average of 37% versus the prior year."

Coronavirus Concerns Stoke Sales in Previously Declining Categories

As coronavirus awareness and concern really started to take root on February 15th, Catalina began reviewing sales data on 756 categories and identified 224 categories that had previously been in decline. Of these, 177 categories have experienced upswings in sales over the past month.  Some of the most dramatic include:

  • Powdered milk, up 375%
  • Chlorine bleach, up 340%
  • Dry, hearty soups, up 235%
  • Deodorant soap bars, up 218%
  • Canned meat stews, up 185%
  • Aluminium foil, up 86%

Facing Weeks at Home, Many Shoppers Select Items to Help Pass Time
Sales lifts in several categories reflect a growing trend toward sheltering in place in one's own household, as more businesses adopt work-from-home models and schools close nationwide.  These categories include products that are likely intended to help pass the time:

  • Books, up 42%
  • Smoking Accessories, up 29%
  • Fire logs, up 25%
  • Condoms, up 25%
  • Games and puzzles, up 23%
  • Toys, up 22%
  • Educational Development Toys, up 11%
  • Magazines, up 8%

Yes, Stockpiling Toilet Paper is a Thing

Toilet paper hoarding in recent weeks has been a much-discussed phenomenon:

  • Premium toilet paper sales increased 379% for the week ending March 14 compared to the prior year and 376% vs the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Value-brand toilet paper sales increased 326% for the week ending March 14 compared to the prior year and 321% vs the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Folded flushable personal wipes surged 372% for the week ending March 14 compared to the prior year and 369% vs the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020, likely spurred by consumers stockpiling toilet paper nationwide.
  • Perhaps also driven by the toilet paper shortage, baby wipe sales shot up 343% for the week ending March 14 vs. the prior year and 339% vs the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020.

Working from Home Likely Spurs Sales Declines in Categories Related to Personal Grooming
As more companies asked employees to work from home, there were noteworthy sales declines in several categories for the week ending March 14 vs. the prior year, all of which are tied to one's personal appearance.

  • Cosmetics - Lips, down 23%
  • Cosmetics - Applicators, down 20%
  • Make-up Gift Sets, down 19%
  • Grooming/Trimming devices, down 18%
  • Women's Colognes/Perfumes, down 12%


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