How Working From Home Is Impacting Consumers

Gina Acosta
a woman smiling for the camera
 This new normal of so many Americans working from home has tremendous implications for food retail.

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced many new consumer trends, but perhaps none is more important to food retailers than WFH culture.

Americans are working from home more than ever before as they shelter in place and try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. New research from Acosta finds that 34% of shoppers working from home expect to do so indefinitely or are unsure of a return date. This new normal of so many Americans working from home has tremendous implications for food retail.

"Nearly three months into this crisis, many states are beginning to open back up, but most shoppers expect to continue to work from home until at least the fall," said Darian Pickett, CEO of Acosta. "Working from home has greatly impacted what, when and how much people are eating throughout the day, which in turn affects their shopping and purchasing behavior. This will have major implications on manufacturers and retailers who will need to sustain current shopping behaviors for at least a few more months."

Acosta's sixth COVID-19 research report, gathered via online surveys conducted between May 15 and 20, provides insight into consumers' priorities, concerns and projections. The report found that consumers believe working from home may continue for an extended period of time, and that has deeply influenced their shopping and eating behaviors. For example:

  • Sixty-six percent of shoppers think a recession will hit the U.S. by the end of 2020, and 42% believe a recession would last more than a year.
  • While many states are reopening, 57% of working shoppers have worked from home full-time since the pandemic began.
  • Twenty-six percent of shoppers expect to return to their workplace in July
  • Another 26% don't expect to return until October
  • About 14% of shoppers expect to return to their workplace by the end of the year
  • And 34% of shoppers either expect to work from home indefinitely or are unsure when they'll return

The new Acosta report also provides recommendations to help retailers prepare for post-COVID-19 shelf recovery. 

When it comes to product variety, 90% are bothered by out-of-stocks. More than one-third of shoppers feel anxious or stressed when they cannot get what was always available pre-pandemic. Sixty-nine percent of shoppers are noticing a decrease in the variety of non-food products available; 60% are noticing less variety in meat and seafood; and 52% are noticing fewer options for shelf-stable foods.

Local Brands Gaining Popularity

The Acosta report also found that 24% of shoppers are buying more U.S.-made products, while 17% are buying more local brands. Among shoppers buying more local brands, 42% specifically wanted to support more local businesses and brands now, and 69% may consider buying more local brands post-pandemic.

Acosta's research was gathered via online surveys using the Company's proprietary shopper community between May 15 and 20, 2020. The report also includes comparison data from online surveys conducted between May 3 and 5, April 17 and 23, April 3 and 7, March 20 and 29 and March 6 and 12, 2020. To access the full report, click here.


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