Study: COVID-19 recovery impacts shopping behavior

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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As consumers receive vaccinations and enter the “new normal,” everything from how often they visit the store to what products they buy is changing.

According to a new study from shopper intelligence platform Catalina, for the four weeks ending May 22, 2021, shopping trips were up 9% compared to the same period in 2020 (during the height of the pandemic). However, dollar sales per store were down 3% and overall basket sizes were 12% lower.

But when compared to the same four-week period during the pre-pandemic era of 2019, Catalina found that shopping trips in May 2021 were down 9%, while dollar sales per store were up 7% and overall basket sizes rose 18%. This suggests that consumers are shifting spending back to brick-and-mortar as COVID-19 eases, but are still making fewer store visits than they were before the pandemic affected store operations. 

Further examination of shopping data pulled from Catalina’s Buyer Intelligence Database, which captures same-store dollar sales for the four weeks ending May 22, 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, shows recent major buying shifts across categories as a result of increasing face-to-face interactions. 

For example, sales of Dixie cups and Chinet plastic cutlery are up 36% and 39% respectively, while Osteo Bi-Flex sales have risen 4% and Smartwater sales have jumped 64% year-over-year.

Consumers are also showing a renewed interest in their personal appearance: Maybelline lipstick sales have surged by 66%, Native deodorant by 88%, and Downy clothing wrinkle reducers by 48%.  The same holds true for dating, as Tic Tac breath freshener sales are up 51%, while Durex condom sales have increased 32%.

On the food front, sales of refrigerated meal starters like Giovanni Rana are up 105%. However, while restaurant sales have grown for eight consecutive weeks through the week ending May 9, 2021, same-store sales have started to soften in several food categories. This includes double-digit dips for fresh meat (down 18%), fresh poultry (down 21%); dried pasta (down 20%), bulk dried rice (down 23%), canned beans (down 21%) and cooking oil (down 23%).

“There’s no doubt the pandemic continues to have a dramatic impact on shopping behavior,” said Catalina chief marketing officer Marta Cyhan.