What might be learned from the COVID-19 buying patterns?

by jmh1 min read15th Mar 2020No comments



Clearly this is not related to the disease or how to navigate it.

I was in one of the area supermarkets this afternoon to pick up a few items and had a couple of thoughts.

First, if people are truly convinced there will be a lock down so they do need all the inventory in their house the additional things to buy and enjoy now are all the fresh produce. You will not get much chance to eat such items when the stores are all closed.

It was interesting to note that the fresh produce (as apposed to the packages chicken, beef and pork - but not the package lunch meets) was, for the most part fully stocked. True, it did reflect the pattern of less perishable items (except the spring onions) being in lower supply. Things like potatoes and onions. Plenty of apples, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, lettuce and such.

That certainly made sense but like I say, now seems to be the time people might want to enjoy eating more fresh foods than frozen or canned foods.

The other thing, and more related to the title, was what things were still on the shelves and where were gone from the shelves. Toilet paper, rice, dried beans and a good amount of the packaged ramen were gone (and have been for a few days). Certain cereals were gone, while others seem to be about as plentiful as before.

What I'm uncertain of is does that patter reflect the actual character of local demand, but the curves all just shifted up and right or if the "panic" buying has produced a change in the underlying character of the local demand.

I would think that if the buying is reflective of a shift in the curve, looking at the shelves, and what is left might be good information for both the manufactures as well as the retail stores. (Though for the retail level there may well be a zero marginal cost of having the items on the shelves so they may amount to something akin to a pure profit type case -- store collects the rent for the shelf space regardless of sales and at some level of operation there is always some shelf space available).