Study: COVID-19 has big impact on buyer decisions

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Study: COVID-19 has big impact on buyer decisions

By Dan Berthiaume - 03/24/2020
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Customers are shifting their preferences in which products they buy, and in what quantities, as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Shopper intelligence/digital media provider Catalina Marketing is releasing sales tracking information from its buyer intelligence database that indicates dramatic changes in consumer behavior since mid-February. According to Catalina Marketing, between Feb. 15 (when consumer awareness of COVID-19 became widespread) and March 14, sales of powdered milk rose 375%. 

Other household items that demonstrated substantial sales increases in the same timeframe include chlorine bleach (340%), dry, hearty soups (235%), deodorant soap bars (218%), canned meat stews (185%), and aluminum foil (86%).

In addition, on Feb. 15, 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 during the past month.  Some of the most dramatic include books (42%), smoking accessories (29%), fire logs (25%), condoms (25%), games and puzzles (23%), toys (22%), educational development toys (11%), magazines (8%).

Furthermore, sales tracking data reveals that hoarding of toilet paper and tissue products has been a legitimate phenomenon:
•    Premium toilet paper sales increased 379% for the week ending March 14 compared to the prior year and 376% compared to 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% compared to 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% compared to the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020, which Catalina says was 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 compared to the prior year and 339% compared to the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020.

As more companies asked employees to work from home, there were noteworthy sales declines in several categories for the week ending March 14 compared to 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%

Other analysis from Catalina reveals store trips began growing around March 1 and really took off the week ending March 14, 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.