'Like we're going into quarantine': Americans plan to stockpile food this fall over fears of COVID-19 surge, election unrest
Leslyn Hall says she and her husband have plans to stock up on groceries later this month. In the back of your mind are concerns about disruptions in supplies should COVID-19 rise further, as well as possible unrest related to the November 3rd presidential election.
"We were talking about running a big store like we were going into quarantine," said Hall, 53, of Burlington, Vermont. On the list: Enough basics like milk, beans, and rice for two to three weeks.
Hall, a consultant, points out that her local grocery stores are struggling to fill their shelves and that there is a shortage of products like detergents, even though her state has one of the lowest COVID-19 rates in the United States.
"We may be in control of things in Vermont, but you still go to the grocery store and the shelves are sparse," she added.
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Hall isn't alone in her plans to fill her pantry this fall. Just over half of Americans recently reported in a recent Sports and Leisure Research Group survey that they already store or store groceries and other essentials. The main reason: fears of a resurgent pandemic that could lead to disruptions such as new company restrictions. On Friday, October 2, the number of COVID cases in the US was the highest in almost two months.
More COVID-19 spikes
"We still see that the majority of Americans are concerned that COVID will continue to spike, and heads are starting to rise in a number of states," said Jon Last, president of the Sports and Recreation Research Group. "At the same time there is COVID fatigue."
He points to the results of the survey that about 52% plan to store this fall, but about 48% don't. Of those stockpiling supplies, the majority are concerned about a surge in infection rates, but a smaller segment of people say they are concerned about the unrest surrounding next month's presidential election.
Shoppers are unlikely to notice the kind of shortages in March and April when the states placed home orders and cleared grocery shelves of essentials like toilet paper and flour. Grocery chains are replenishing supplies ahead of the winter months to ensure they can meet demand as COVID cases and the holidays increase, according to the Wall Street Journal.
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There is already evidence that grocery sales are increasing, according to industry sources. The typical bill for a trip to the grocery store rose to $ 72, or 11% more than the previous week, for the week ending October 6, according to data company Envestnet Yodlee.
"This is the highest since the first week of June and the second highest since the tracking began in January," said Bill Parsons, group president for data and analytics at Evestnet. Grocery spending peaked in April, he notes.
The search for hard-to-find goods is increasing
Consumers are increasingly turning to online grocery delivery to fill their pantries. 17.2% of grocery sales are now spent online, up nearly 2 percentage points from early September, Parsons added. According to Instacart, the search for hard-to-find staples is on the rise again during the pandemic, and searches for "toilet paper" have increased 14% in the past four weeks.
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Food spending remains elevated in part due to the dynamics of the pandemic, according to Anne-Marie Roerink, director and founder of 210 Analytics, which tracks food sales. Millions of adults and children continue to work or study from home, increasing the demand for home-cooked meals.
"We all now have beans in the pantry and some meals ready," she says. "We learned to buy online and refill all the time instead of 'I have nothing but spices'."
Aimee Picchi is a business journalist whose work appears in publications such as USA TODAY, CBS News and Consumer Reports. She spent nearly a decade covering technology and media for Bloomberg News. You can find her on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Toilet Paper: COVID Fears Second Wave Boosts Food Stocks
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