Monday, March 22, 2021

The Return of Shopping

 I admit it: I like shopping. I even like grocery shopping. Like everyone, my opportunity for “live” shopping has been curtailed lately (my Amazon habit rages on unabated). I shop for groceries weekly, and have shopped at drugstores and hardware stores regularly. I stopped visiting other stores when I had to, but started again when I could. My shopping post-pandemic will likely not change drastically - but what about everyone else? Will shoppers surge back to stores? Prognosticators are examining pandemic shopping behavior to predict what shoppers will do post-pandemic. 

There are signs that people welcome a return to live shopping, but researchers are seeing shifts not only in how people shop, but how they feel about shopping. A study on grocery shoppers by Deloitte noted three consumer behavior shifts: Shopping less frequently; changing what they buy; changing what they value. 90% of respondents indicated that while price is still the primary key to purchasing decisions, safety essentially tied with price. In other words, if stores show that they’re taking safety seriously, shoppers will come.1

Retailers, especially apparel merchants, hope “consumers will return as they tire of online shopping and seek new outfits for when they return to their offices”.2 In an interview, the CEO of Gap, Inc. predicted a desire to dress up after months of decreased socializing: “We’re quite optimistic…there’s going to be this peacocking effect” which (she hopes) will translate into store visits.3

We conducted our own informal shopping survey of our KPP co-workers, asking a series of questions about pre- and post-pandemic shopping.

Among our 45 respondents, 24% said they really enjoyed shopping before the pandemic and 53% believe it was somewhat enjoyable. The remaining 23% ranged from somewhat indifferent to “I’d rather put a stick in my eye”.  Post pandemic, our most enthusiastic shoppers dropped from 24% to 16%, but our group which expects to sometimes enjoy shopping grew from 53% to 69%  - reflecting everyone’s desire to get out of the house.

As for grocery shopping, our respondents were split.  Most have cut back on the number of times they visit a grocery store each week, some preferring home delivery and the convenience of curbside pickup.  As for expectations for the future, about half plan to go back to their old habits while the other half will continue newly-established habits such as ordering bulk goods online, taking advantage of curbside pickup, and shopping off hours to avoid crowds.

By far, the biggest thing our respondents are looking forward to in the world of shopping is being able to try on clothing again; everyone is looking forward to going back to their favorite restaurants; and of course, no masks.

We’ll look cautiously forward to a renaissance of retail this spring and summer. Here in my state, almost exactly a year after the shutdown, vaccines are happening, the weather’s getting better, and re-opening is in progress. Maybe I’ll go shopping.

Chris Cardoni, Marketing Manager

1. The future of fresh - Patterns from the pandemic, Barb Renner, Brian Baker, Justin Cook, Josh Mellinger,

2. Retailers hold onto stores in hopes of surge of shoppers, Digital Commerce

3. Gap’s CEO says people will emerge from pandemic and start ‘peacocking,’ could be a boon for retailers, Yahoo News

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