How is the lockdown changing our shopping habits?

Coronavirus has forced us all to make dramatic changes to the way we live, from home schooling our children to hosting pub quizzes in our living rooms via video apps.

Unsurprisingly, the UK’s shopping habits have also undergone stark changes.

While the lockdown has forced swathes of people online, the closure of nearly all non-essential retail stores, a sharp drop in levels of staff able or willing to come to work and massive disruption in many supply chains have transformed the retail sector almost beyond recognition.

To try and get a grip on the changes occurring in the sector, Charged has collated and summarised all the key research on how the UK is shopping during the COVID-19 crisis.


This week Kantar reported record monthly grocery sales in the four weeks to March 22 to £10.8 billion as panic buying set in ahead of last week’s lockdown announcement.

Average household spend jumped £62.92 during that period “even higher than levels at Christmas”, with sales rising 20.6 per cent year-on-year, including a grocery sales jump of 13 per cent.

This spike in buying is predicted to mean the frequency of shopping trips will drop off over the coming weeks as people’s cupboards remain full.


According to Nielsen Britons made an extra 79 million shopping trips over the same four-week period prior to lockdown, accounting for an extra £1.9 billion in spending.

The uptick in sales was particularly pronounced in the week ending March 21, which saw a massive 43 per cent weekly growth in sales, including an 84 per cent jump in frozen food sales.

“Pandemic pantry” items such as pasta, rice, medicines, cleaning supplies, pet care and ambient groceries were the key purchases.

Beer, wine and spirit sales also saw a whopping 67 per cent spike during the week ending March 21.


As the country is forced online by the lockdown, Adobe says the amount of “buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) orders has risen 62 per cent.

Between January 1 and March 11 online sales of hand sanitisers, gloves, masks and antibacterial sprays jumped a whopping 807 per cent. Over-the-counter medicine saw online sales jump 217 per cent, toilet paper jumped 231 per cent while canned goods rose 87 per cent.

Computers and desktops have also seen a 40 per cent rise in sales as people seek to sure up their home entertainment systems and are able to comfortably work from home.

Fitness equipment in March, including kettlebells, dumbbells and treadmills also saw a 55 per cent jump as people sought to ensure they could continue to exercise in lockdown.


In a survey of 1000 consumers, 42 per cent of shoppers said they were shopping online more during lockdown, while eight per cent said they were shopping online less.

Ten per cent of shoppers said they had tried BOPIS for the first time, 14 per cent said they have used online grocery delivery for the first time, while 13 per cent of shoppers said they were using both more regularly.

Brand loyalty is also reportedly being impacted, with 19 per cent stating they’re purchasing whatever goods are available.

Looking past the coronavirus crisis, 52 per cent said they would continue with the changes they’ve made to their shopping behaviour after the threat of the virus has cleared.

IMRG Capgemini

According to the pair’s Online Retail Index which tracks the performance of over 200 retailers, online retail sales growth has actually fallen 2.2 per cent during the week commencing March 15.

Clothing saw a drop of a 26.7 per cent drop during the period, including a 38.2 per cent drop in footwear sales.

Health and beauty sales meanwhile jumped 31.6 per cent year-on-year, while electricals spiked 42.4 per cent.

Amid the closure of bars and restaurants, supermarket alcohol sales have skyrocketed, with and extra £160 million being spent during the first three weeks of March.

Retail Economics

Shoppers are switching to online shopping at a “phenomenal” rate, with 40 per cent of people stating they are now doing more online shopping, up from 16 per cent just two weeks ago.

A further third of shoppers say they’re now buying products online they previously only ever bought in physical stores, while nearly 75 per cent said they were no longer buying items like apparel, electricals and homewares during lockdown.

Over half of consumers (56 per cent) also said they were worried about their personal finances and have little to no savings and 29 per cent said they have no savings or were currently in debt.

The NPD Group

In a slightly more positive note, sales of games and puzzles jumped 240 per cent in the week ending March 21 compared to the same week a year earlier.

Classic board games including Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo and Uno secured a 21 per cent share the entire toy sector during the first week of lockdown.

Meanwhile outdoor sports sales jumped 12 per cent year-on-year and arts and crafts supplies saw a whopping 97 per cent boost in sales.

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