Grocery Shoppers Are Ready to Return to Stores

The Feedback Group’s new report finds Walmart has highest expected shopping ratio for physical store shopping
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Grocery Shoppers Are Ready to Return to Stores

After lockdowns and quarantines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are ready to return to physical grocery stores. Four times as many shoppers plan to shop more often in a store in 2021 as those who plan to shop less, according to The Feedback Group’s "Grocery Shopper Intention Monitor" report. This strong expected shopping ratio (defined as the ratio of more to less often) appears strongest among rural shoppers (34% more often/4% less often) and the Baby Boomer generation (32% more/6% less).

Walmart leads the way with the highest expected shopping ratio (34% more/11% less), followed by Costco (33% more/16% less), dollar stores (29% more/12% less) and grocery stores, including chains and independents (28% more/11% less). When considering rural shoppers, the stores with the highest expected shopping ratio are Aldi, dollar stores, Sprouts Farmers Market, Walmart and Trader Joe’s. Among Boomers, Meijer, Trader Joe’s, Winco Foods Inc., Aldi and Costco show the highest expected shopping ratios.

Brian Numainville, a principal with The Feedback Group, based in Lake Success, N.Y., noted: “As we look forward, our research reveals that many shoppers anticipate returning to shopping in stores for food and groceries across a variety of formats. As a result, it is important for stores to provide the best possible experience to welcome food shoppers back and retain them.”

Taking a closer look at dollar stores, about four out of 10 shoppers indicate that they shop at a dollar store every two weeks or more frequently. Among those who shop a dollar store at least once every few months, about three in 10 shop for food or grocery items every two weeks or more often, driven by the convenience of the store/location (57%), price (54%), quality (43%), and for items or brands they like (41%). The categories mentioned as most purchased were chips/salty snacks (65%), candy (62%), cookies/crackers (60%), beverages (59%) and canned goods (52%).

“Since dollar stores had one of the higher expected shopping ratios for shoppers planning to shop in a store, it is clear that convenient store locations and price are appealing to dollar store shoppers for several product categories,” said Numainville. “Although fresh categories like meat and fruits/vegetables presently show the lowest purchasing levels, as reported by shoppers, these categories may grow as dollar stores continue to expand their offerings.”

For example, Dollar General recently said that it's adding fresh produce to 10,000 stores.  

Meanwhile, in the digital world, twice as many shoppers indicate that they'll shop more online (40%) versus less (20%) in 2021. The online expected shopping ratio is strongest among urban shoppers (54% more/17% less) and Millennials (57% more/19% less), while the youngest generation, Gen Z, has a flat expected shopping ratio.

Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh show the strongest expected shopping ratio for online shopping, followed by, and Stores with the top expected shopping ratio among Millennials are led by Whole Foods (with a ratio of four times more versus less), followed by,, Amazon Fresh, and Instacart. Among urban shoppers, Whole Foods again comes out on top, followed by, Amazon Fresh, and Fresh Direct.

“As the findings illustrate, Amazon, both with Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh, appears to have the greatest overall momentum in terms of shoppers expecting to use their online services more often,” said Doug Madenberg, principal for The Feedback Group, which offers a broad spectrum of research, consumer insight and consulting services. “Whole Foods also resonates the strongest among urban and Millennial shoppers, and Amazon Fresh also places in the top group of stores among these shoppers, along with Walmart, Target, Costco, Instacart and Fresh Direct. Absent from the top group are grocery stores, showing that work remains for the channel to continue to strengthen online offerings.”

"The Grocery Shopper Intention Monitor" report tracks expected future grocery shopping, both in stores and online, and among specific retailers. The Feedback Group’s study is based on a nationally representative sample of 2,250 respondents who shopped in stores and/or online for food and groceries in the prior 30 days.

Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Costco, Aldi U.S., Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe's Co., Meijer Inc., WinCo Foods, Dollar General, Amazon, Whole Foods Market and Target are Nos. 4, 24, 48, 28, 18, 44, 15, 2, 26 and 6, respectively.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds