Grocery Stores Are Getting Super Serious About Stockpiling Goods

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COVID-19’s hits seem to just keep on coming. New York City’s mayor is contemplating re-shutting down certain ZIP codes due to new outbreaks, 21 states are reporting rising cases vs. three reporting declines and President Donald Trump just spend days in the hospital with the disease. With some predicting the dreaded second wave of outbreaks, U.S. grocers are getting ready just in case Americans start hoarding certain goods as they did during the pandemic’s early phases.

Won’t Be Caught Off Guard Again

Some experts expect another round of mass buying of certain items — masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and (of course) Charmin and other brands of toilet paper. In fact, market watchers think a second round of panic buying could be worse than the first given customers’ negative memories of being unable to purchase hamburger meat or having to beg their neighbors for paper towels.

And if consumers are going to go on another stock-up binge, stores are committed to not getting caught flat-footed a second time, loading up on items they anticipate will have high demand. CNN reports that much of what merchants are stocking up on is pretty unsurprising — paper goods, household products, masks and other items that saw shortages in the pandemic’s early weeks.

But given that America is also entering the holiday season, grocers have also had to think about holiday products it’d be prudent to stock up on. For example, Winn-Dixie parent Southeastern Grocers reportedly started buying Thanksgiving turkeys and holiday hams during the summer, many months ahead of when it would normally make those purchases.

And organic-grocery wholesaler United Natural Foods has already loaded up on herbal tea and cold remedies as it prepares for lots of potential demand, according to published reports.

Will It Be Enough?

It’s not easy to know ahead of time if grocers are over-preparing, under-preparing or getting it just right — but getting it right will be important, according to PYMNTS’ recent consumer survey on post-pandemic trends.

Some 55 percent of U.S. consumers listed available inventory as one of the things they value the most when considering where to shop. That trails only the availability of delivery (which 66 percent cited) and curbside pickup (58 percent) as the most important characteristic. And when PYMNTS asked consumers to rank those three capabilities in order of importance, inventory availability topped the list.

“Part of reducing shopping friction is knowing whether items are available when consumers want to buy them,” Karen Webster noted in discussing the survey results.

And consumers aren’t too forgiving when they don’t get what they want. Running into an inventory problem once with a grocer will send many scooting to the next one – and they’ll likely keep returning to the merchant known for meeting their inventory needs. It’s easy to imagine that only becoming more important as the holiday season wears on.

The botton line: Many grocers got tagged when they didn’t see the last wave of pandemic-related buying coming. It seems they’re increasingly committed to being ready this time — even during a time of year when commerce’s sea are always pretty choppy anyway.

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