Grand Rapids-based Meijer reports that self-checkout and increases in grab-and-go food and citrus produce purchases were the most prevalent changes in shopping as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While home delivery and pickup services doubled at Meijer stores over the last 12 months, customers used the retailer’s Shop & Scan technology more than 100 million times as they shopped and bagged to shorten time spent in the store.
Additionally, customers also ate more grab-and-go sushi, purchased more citrus produce and supplements, added hand weights to home gyms, and purchased decorative pillows to enhance backgrounds for video calls or to work more comfortably from home while in bed.
“It was a year rife with challenge, and although it’s not yet over, we see a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at Meijer. “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.”
Other notable customer pandemic shopping trends include:
Recreation products: As shutdowns continued, customers turned to new video game hardware and accessories, board games, and puzzles to keep themselves busy and entertained. Notably, Meijer sold more bikes, pools, and grills than in past years and saw more than a 60 percent increase in fishing pole and gear sales as an estimated 9 million new anglers picked up the hobby to fill their time.
Easy meal choices: As wait times for restaurant take-out increased, stores saw a dramatic increase in grab-and-go and easy meal offerings for families to eat together at home. Some of the most popular choices include rotisserie chicken, with more the 500,000 sold over the last month. Premade meals from local restaurants that Meijer partners with has been another quick meal option during the pandemic for some local communities.
Bulk purchases: Rather than buying each piece of fruit separately, more customers stocked up on potatoes, tomatoes, and apples in bagged quantities. Additionally, shoppers focused on boosting their immunity, adding oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and supplements to their shopping lists.
Fitness purchases: As local gyms and fitness centers shut down, staying healthy at home became the trend. Fitness items like yoga mats, exercise straps, curl bars, and hand weights became hot sellers at the start of the pandemic with more than a 300 percent increase in demand.
Pillow proliferation: Meijer sold more than 1 million bed pillows in 2020 and customers opted for white goods with antimicrobial properties to ensure clean spaces to sleep through the night. Even though work from home is expected to eventually transition, Meijer anticipates the double-digit growth of bedrest pillows to continue this year.
Home office purchases: Thermal curtains and weighted blankets grew more than 50 percent compared to last year as shoppers sought to keep heating bills down and block light in their home offices. Adding a variety of scents and ambiance to workspaces, spa-themed candles increased in popularity as the year progressed, resulting in a 160 percent increase since the beginning of the pandemic.
Sanitation: Masks, hand sanitizer, and surface cleaners were top sellers throughout 2020, but disposable dishes, aluminum foil, baking paper, and food storage also saw large increases as more meals, breads, and other viral cooking challenges were prepared in homes than ever before. Most recently, shoppers are focusing on home organizing and adding more environmentally safe cleaning solutions to their supply closets.
Finally, Meijer Express locations, which saw an expected decrease in gas sales due to less commuting, became de facto 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.