SAN FRANCISCO – In the time since coronavirus (COVID-19) rattled the United States, consumers have started grocery shopping on different days of the week, at different times of day and changing the way they shop and the time they spend doing it.
In a recent study, Placer.ai reviewed consumer shopping habit data from Albertsons, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Publix, Wegmans and Costco.
Comparing March 2020 through May 2020 to the same timeframe in 2019, all seven retailers saw a shift from Friday through Sunday shopping to Monday through Thursday shopping. Over half of consumers at all of the grocers are now shopping on weekdays, whereas in 2019 over half of consumers shopped on weekend days.
Placer.ai identified that all of the brands also saw a dramatic increase in shopping from 6 – 11 a.m., with the 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. shopping period remaining roughly the same, and the 4 – 9 p.m. timeframe seeing a decrease in traffic compared to last year.
Ethan Chernofsky, Placer.ai’s vice president of marketing, questions if the shift to more shopping in early morning hours is impacting purchasing patterns.
“Could the bright-eyed morning visit drive more sales for pre-planned meals at the expense of ready-made options when a consumer has already hit their limit for the day’s energy expenditures?” he asked.
Chernofsky noted that a key consumer change from March to May has been shoppers becoming more mission driven. Kroger, for example, saw a significant decline in cross-shopping, which is a strong indication that shoppers are more focused on getting what they need and less likely to make impulse purchases.
The retailers also reported that the average length of shopping visits in their stores has increased at all stores but Whole Foods, which saw a 4.8% drop in shopping trip duration. At the other stores, trips lengthened by as much as 12%. Chernofsky had a few insights into why this change has occurred.
“First, if consumers are more mission-driven in their shopping they will eschew a trip to another store for a few more minutes in the location they’re already in,” he said. “Second, if consumers are able to shop when they want to, the mindset of ‘get in, get out’ may be dulled. Finally, the greater time flexibility could be impacting this space as well.”
In the midst of COVID-19 many Americans have switched from working in the office to working at home, which gives individuals more flexibility with their time. Chernofsky predicts that with many companies embracing long term value of working from home — even if only part time — there’s good reason to believe that the shopping pattern changes from COVID-19 may be around to stay.
“We received a glimpse into what shopping could look like if work/life splits were given blurrier lines,” he said. “The big remaining question is whether greater levels of flexibility will last beyond the crisis. If so, significant changes to shopping patterns and, therefore, grocery and wholesale performance, could be on the horizon.”