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Walmart CEO: Pantry Loading Is Back

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Walmart CEO: Pantry Loading Is Back
Earlier this year, shoppers cleared out stocks at Walmart stores across the country.

Another wave of pantry loading is underway as COVID-19 infections surge across the country.

That's what Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told the audience at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on Monday, Oct. 26.

“Things are getting better, but we have a ways to go to recover. It will be choppy for months to come as we all deal with the volatility and as things change,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said of out-of-stocks. “Today, there has been some leveling out, but with the case counts coming back up, there are some areas we see stock-up behavior again locally."

The United States has hit a new high in the number of daily COVID-19 infections, according to an analysis done by Time. It has surpassed the peak reached in mid-July. 

More than half of Americans said that they're stockpiling groceries or plan to stockpile over worries about supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 surges and political unrest amid the presidential election.

According to an October report from market research firm White Plains, New York-based Sports and Leisure Research Group, roughly 52% of Americans plan to stockpile this fall. Of those who are stockpiling, the majority are concerned about an increase in infection rates, but a smaller share of people said that they're worried about unrest surrounding the election next month.

“We still see a majority of Americans are concerned that we will see more spikes in COVID, and it's beginning to rear its head in a number of states,” said Jon Last, president of the Sports and Leisure Research Group. “At the same time, there is COVID fatigue.”

In August, Jacksonville, Florida-based Acosta reported on new research finding that 53% of shoppers plan to stock up if another pandemic shutdown occurs. 

More specifically, the new research found that:

  • 38% of consumers stocked up at the beginning of the pandemic and would do so again with a new shutdown.
  • 15% of consumers didn't stock up earlier this year when the outbreak started, but would do so if there's a new shutdown.
  • 17% stocked up at the beginning of the outbreak, but will refrain from doing so again.
  • 24% didn’t stock up last time and have no plans of starting.

The main message from all that, according to Acosta? Retailers should prepare.

"As COVID cases continue to rise, most shoppers believe we're headed for another shutdown and plan to respond accordingly, so retailers should be prepared for a new surge in stocking up," said Darian Pickett, CEO of North American sales at Acosta. "The pandemic will also significantly impact back-to-school shopping this year, and retailers will need to adapt to parents' new priorities and shopping preferences. Hand sanitizer, masks and gloves will be the most in-demand items, in addition to basic school supplies, and many will opt for online shopping and delivery options."

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart operates more than 11,300 stores under 58 banners in 27 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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