General Merchandise/HBC

Pandemic Pushed Consumers to Spend More Each Time Shopping

Trend held true if purchases were at stores or online, NPD reports
Costco shoppers prepare as coronavirus spreads
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PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. During the pandemic, U.S. consumers have been buying more on each shopping trip, also known as stocking up, which has led to an increase in the average amount spent each shopping occasion, according to market research company The NPD Group.

This uptick is true whether it’s a trip to a store or to an online shopping site. The average amount spent during a shopping occasion hit $34 in March 2020 and has remained at or above that amount through July 2021, Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD said.

This increase is partially due to a shift toward online purchasing, where average selling prices and the amount spent on each transaction already tended to be higher. However, the number of weekly shopping occasions still falls short of 2019 levels, indicating the sales lift is primarily caused by an increase in stockup purchasing behavior.

“Fewer shopping trips to limit in-person contact at retail stores, combined with supply-chain challenges making fewer products available, means consumers are more willing to spend more now to get the products they need,” said Marshal Cohen, retail chief industry advisor for NPD. “This dynamic alters the traditional cadence of product seasonality and creates less price sensitivity.”

In each of the 12 months since March 2020, the average amount spent per shopping occasion has been between 13% and 29% higher than the same month in the prior year. Those new spending levels have held relatively steady since March 2021.

The strongest growth in spending per shopping occasion since the pandemic’s start have been at grocery and drug stores, warehouse clubs, hardware and farm stores, and mass merchantsacross both in-store and online retailers.

The amount spent per shopping occasion through July 2021 at each channel averaged at least 20% higher than 2019 levels. Warehouse clubs, and hardware and farm stores, are two channels that experienced an increase in combined in-store and online shopping visits, but their overall gains still pale in comparison to pure-play online retailers that have increased shopping visits 49% compared to 2019, NPD said.

“Leading into the holiday shopping season, we can expect to see consumers spending more for better products, with fewer items under the tree,” Cohen added. “The evolving pandemic lifestyle is already influencing what consumers are buying. Layer on reduced in-store shopping frequency, and the continued strength of online shopping, and the critical role of impulse shopping will remain muffled.”

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