Toilet paper, hand sanitizer flying off shelves? Yes, COVID-19 is leading to explosive growth in online shopping of many household products, but we are also running low on yeast and flour due to a national bread making craze.
With the closing of many workplaces, businesses and social distances efforts due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s probably no surprise that there has been a massive surge in online shopping. From home delivery of food and grocery services like Foodora, Uber Eats and DoorDash (as well as local Toronto ones like Chanmao, MyFOD, and Fantuan). You’d certainly expect that the major online retailers are experiencing growth.
In the US market, grocery sales are going up, with grocery delivery service Instacart saying there has been a 150% increase in order in recent weeks, and they are planning to hire home staff to keep up with demand.
Amazon certainly agrees, they say “the coronavirus outbreak has caused a surge in online shopping” (CNN) and have added over 100,000 new full-time positions in their fulfilment centres in the US.
So what are people buying that they might have usually picked up at the local shopping centre? According to Visual Capitalist and SlackLine (a retail intelligence firm which compares e-commerce sales from various retailers), they came up with a list of items that are selling the most from this time last month. The list includes the things you’d expect to see, gloves and toilet paper, plus plenty of non-perishable foods for people and their pets (yes, dog food is on that list!). What you also see is people planning for the long run, with items like weights and fitness goods selling as much as three times as usual, in case we’re in for a long staycation – let’s hope not!
Here is a list of what products are selling the best right now on Amazon, March 2020 compared to March 2019, likely due to the Coronavirus.
The Fastest Growing and Declining E-Commerce Categories
Top Increases in sales from March 2019 vs March 2020
Disposable Gloves +670%
With 20-second hard washing becoming the rule rather than the exception, you’d expect hand soap, sanitizers and of course disposable gloves to become a necessity. It sure has, with disposable gloves topping the list with a 670 per-cent increase in sales compared to last March.
Bread Machines +652%
People are baking bread “like crazy” according to Jeff Bezo’s other project, the Washington Post, and now we’re running out of flour and yeast to keep our machines pumping out warm fresh bread. Maybe no surprise with concerns about going into stores, people are looking for ways to limit exposure to crowded stores, so making your food is becoming popular. Beak making machines have become so popular that Amazon’s top-selling model, the Cuisinart CBK 110 is sold out at this time. Bread machines are selling more than 6 times as much as they were selling in March 2019.
Cough Medicine +535%
Pain relievers +99%
It’s import to remember that regular coughs are still a thing, and this is the season when we’re just getting out flu season regularly. While typically it’s a quick dash down to the local drug store, it’s no surprise people are loading up on essentials online now. Expect too that as summer approaches, you’ll probably see a rise in sales of over-the-counter allergy medications.
Rice and Dried Grains +386%
Packaged Foods +377%
Fruit Cups +326%
Since we can only estimate how many weeks it will be until we “flatten the curve”, it’s no surprise that people think we might be in this for a while. Hence Amazon sees a three-times growth in non-perishable items like soups, packaged goods and other food items with a long shelf life.
Dog Food +159%
While we’re talking food, let us add dog food to this list of top sellers too – up over 150% this month too along with their two-legged friends. Presumably, that also includes our feline friends as well.
Fitness Goods +170%
With self-isolation, social distancing taking the place of that daily run or weekly trip to the gym, it’s probably not surprising either that sales of home gym equipment is growing. Everything from you basic Dumbbells or Kettlebell to everything from Fitbit trackers, yoga mats to workout DVDs are selling more than usual this spring.
Milk and Cream +279%
While we’re not sure why coffee isn’t on that list, milk and cream are certainly on this list, up almost 300% from last year. While I’d never considered buying milk from Amazon, with the purchase of Whole Foods a few years back, they certainly have a selection of everything from your regular milk, to long-lasting powdered milk, to organic and Almond and soy milk.
Dishwashing Supplies +275%
Toilet Paper +190%
Household staples are definitely on the list. Much like non-perishable food items, household products are selling as well as you’d expect. Despite early stories of stores like Walmart and Target running low on toilet paper, the panic buying might have died down, as a quick check showed that commodity items like toilet paper were readily available.
Pain Relievers +99%
Top Decreasing in sales from March 2019 vs March 2020
Except for a few unfortunately planned trips, the March break travel season was much more subdued this year compared to last March.
As a result, the categories that saw the most significant drop in sales on Amazon are primarily travel-related or event-related. Outdoor activated like golf, and drone flying also saw a decrease from last year.
- Luggage -77%
- Briefcases -77%
- Cameras -64%
- Men’s Swimwear -64%
- Bridal wear -63%
- Men’s formal wear -62%
- Women’s swimwear -59%
- Rash guards -59%
- Boys athletic shoes -59%
- Gym bags -57%
- Party events and supplies -55%
- Store Fixtures and Displays -50%
- Drones -50%
- Golf Clubs -33%
- Coolers -30%
What Happens Next?
So there you have it, if retailers don’t have enough to worry about, there’s a change the question retailers are probably asking themselves is what happens after Coronavirus is beaten back over the next few months. Will consumers go back to their regular stores, or will they continue to shop online? For the usual things we pop down to the local pharmacy or grocery store for, I think these will return. If I need milk for my coffee, I’m certainly not going to use Amazon Prime so that I can have milk in my tea by dinner time.
On the other hand, while many restaurant delivery services are offering reduced delivery fees, or eliminating them, these will probably continue to change our dining habits long after Coronavirus has been beaten back.
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