When we look at how U.S. consumers are doing their grocery shopping around the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCS has defined five stages of consumer buying.

NCS defines COVID-19 shopping phases: pre COVID-19 buying, preparedness buying, extreme buying, home-confined buying and new normal.

  • Pre-COVID-19 Buying (prior to February 24): “Business-as-usual” non-seasonal grocery and OTC buying prior to February 24.
  • Preparedness Buying (February 24 – March 10): As news about the novel coronavirus appears, there is a noticeable uptick in CPG purchasing at the end of February—a 2% increase in average household spending. Hand sanitizer and household cleaner purchases start to take off the last week of February, peaking on February 29, when toilet paper sales start to build.
  • Extreme Buying (March 11 – 21): March 11 becomes the inflection point as consumers spend heavily to stock their pantries: average household spend increased 35% compared to pre-COVID buying levels. During this stage, consumers clear out shelves and CPG retailers experience shortages of some items.
  • Home-Confined Buying (March 22 and onward): Through a period of time spent at home driven by nationwide stay-at-home orders, CPG spending has remained high. Spending for this period is 22% higher than it was prior to COVID-19.
  • New Normal Buying: Yet to be seen in the U.S., the period after the pandemic, when “shelter-in-place” and other emergency measures are lifted and consumers feel more comfortable returning to physical stores.