May 14, 2020
Covid-19 Impacting Consumer Purchasing Decisions
One of the more noticeable impacts of the pandemic has been its effect on consumer purchasing behaviors. In the early days of the outbreak, when the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the global coronavirus risk level to “very high,” consumers began actively stockpiling emergency supplies, followed by basic foodstuffs such as canned goods, flour, sugar, milk and bottled water. Concerns about the pandemic created a ripple effect into non-food essentials, too. In the U.S., sales of supplements, fruit snacks and first aid kits, for example, have all been on the rise.
An investigation across many countries by Nielsen has detected spikes in the hoarding of emergency supplies in China, the U.S. and Italy, where consumers have been rushing to build what some are calling “pandemic pantries.” This rush on essentials has had an immediate impact on supply chains for manufacturers. In some countries, stocks of hand sanitizer and medical facemasks have already dried up. According to Nielsen, San Francisco drug stores exceeded an entire year’s supply of medical facemasks in a single week in February.
Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a dramatic shift in short-term decision making. While some of the changes in consumer purchasing behavior are clearly temporary, others are expected to linger or become the new norm once the risk of infection drops to acceptable levels and the economy stabilizes.
While a variety of reports have been following the impacts of COVID-19 on consumer purchasing behaviors, a recent study by Wells Fargo highlighted several key trends, including the following: