The fact that many shoppers shifted to online ordering and bought more hand sanitizer, comfort food and disposable dishes in the past year isn’t surprising, as consumers radically changed their lifestyles. Although some pandemic-related behaviors are obvious and well documented, new insights from Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer reveal impacts on other categories.
In food and beverage, the move to work-from-home and learn-from-home lifestyles affected shoppers’ food choices. In a recently-released trend review, Meijer reports that shoppers stocked up on produce items like potatoes, tomatoes and apples in bagged quantities. While they often bought in bulk to feed more people in a more economical way, consumers also sought a new form of convenience; Meijer stores saw a dramatic increase in grab-and-go and easy meal offerings for families to eat together at home and a surge in disposable dishes, food storage and baking paper.
Ongoing changes in home and work life reinvigorated other retail categories as well. To combat boredom, customers bought new game hardware and accessories, board games and puzzles for inside entertainment and more bikes, pools and grills for outside recreation. Sales of fishing poles and gear spiked 60% at Meijer during the past year.
As shoppers sought to improve health and wellbeing in the midst of a global health crisis, they also opted for white goods with antimicrobial properties to ensure clean spaces and purchased more fitness items like yoga mats, exercise straps, curl bars and hand weights, which became hot sellers at the start of the pandemic with more than a 300% increase in demand at Meijer.
With the switch work-from-home and learn-from-home lifestyles, shoppers also turned to decorative pillows and candles to enhance their workspaces and purchased more thermal curtains and weighted blankets for comfort. Although work from home is expected to eventually transition, Meijer anticipates the double-digit growth of bedrest pillows to continue this year.
Meijer reports other changes in food purchases in the wake of the pandemic. Meijer Express locations, which saw an expected decrease in gas sales due to less commuting, became destinations for customers seeking quick trips as shutdowns reduced retailer hours. In addition to late-night snacks and beverages, 24-hour Meijer Express locations saw double digit growth in firewood and propane sales for backyard gatherings and camping trips.
Peter Whitsett, EVP of merchandising and marketing at Meijer, says that going forward, the company expects more changes and a greater need for flexibility in providing solutions to shoppers. "As communities have begun to re-open, we're continuing to find new ways to be flexible as customers reshape their shopping habits for the warmer weather of a new year,” he remarks.
Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Meijer operates 256 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The company is No. 19 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.