Here’s exactly how COVID-19 fears have impacted sales at local grocery stores and supermarkets nationwide

By now, you’ve certainly seen images of empty store shelves — and likely experienced them firsthand — as panic around the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) leads consumers to stock up on food, water, toilet paper, and hygiene products. 

At Womply, we’ve been analyzing revenue data at local businesses in all 50 states and across hundreds of business categories. We’ve certainly seen a spike in sales at grocery stores and supermarkets. Let’s dive into the data.

A daily view of how grocery store sales are trending compared to the same time last year

One way to look at impact on grocery stores is to analyze every day of the 2020 calendar year against sales on the closest day of the week in 2019. That’s what you’re seeing in the chart below for all 50 states (we’ll look at specific states and cities later on). 

This chart includes only data from grocery stores that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open grocery stores vs. a comparable day in 2019.

A few observations from this view: 

  • Grocery store sales have been up consistently all year long so far in 2020. 
  • There’s a huge spike where grocery sales nearly double on February 10 and 11
  • Starting in March, when things got more serious in the U.S., sales were up 20% to ~30% nearly every day, with the mounting gains on the week of March 8, when much of the country started shutting down.
  • Sales then spiked dramatically the weekend of March, 13th after major announcements like the NBA suspending its season and several states started closing schools and businesses.
  • Grocery stores across the country saw a 96% increase in revenue on Monday, March 16th.
  • Sales slowed down at the end of March, but rebounded to consistent increases throughout April.

Here’s daily calendar view showing the same stats for local grocery stores, nationally:

Map: Last week year-over-year change in grocery store revenues in response to coronavirus preppers

Another way to look at the impact of COVID-19 on grocery store sales is to look at the most recent week vs. the same time period in 2019. The graphic below shows this view in each state, updated daily to show the most recent 7-day period.

Note, you can click on a state to view county-level data

As you can see, revenue was still up significantly at grocery stores in most states last week (the week of Monday, April 27th).

A handful of states, however, did experience mild to moderate drops in average grocery store revenue, suggesting some areas are still experiencing a slow down after the coast-to-coast increases throughout the month of March.

Map timeline: daily year-over-year change at grocery stores

Here’s an animated view of how COVID-19 impacted grocery store sales day-by-day:

People in Utah began to pillage grocery stores far sooner than in any other state

Now, let’s drill down and look at a few states and metro areas. First up, Utah — AKA, prepper capital of the U.S.A. — during the coronavirus craze of 2020. 

Take a look:

This chart includes only data from grocery stores that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open grocery stores vs. a comparable day in 2019.

Observations:

  • Utah consumers have been on a prepping spree all year long, with 3-4x revenue spikes beginning in early January and continuing in February and March.
  • The second big spike in mid-February seems to correspond to reports of the coronavirus spreading rapidly from China to other parts of the world.
  • Early to mid-March has been a free-for-all at Utah grocery stores. Sales peaked at a whopping 403% increase on Feb 29th, and continued to stay between 100% and over 300% above 2019’s figures until March 12th.
  • Sales dropped to less drastic increases before spiking again in mid-April.

New York shoppers are ransacking grocery stores, too

New York was one of the first U.S. states with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, so it would make sense that the urgency around the pandemic would be felt urgently in the Empire State. 

While New Yorkers may not have been as quick to stock up as Utahns, you can clearly see a big shift in consumer behavior as it relates to grocery shopping. 

This chart includes only data from grocery stores that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open grocery stores vs. a comparable day in 2019.

Observations:

  • In general, grocery store sales have been up by 15% or more so far in 2020.
  • The first big spike came in mid-February around the 1,000 worldwide deaths milestone, and the latest was a 40-50% spike during much of the month of March.
  • Sales spiked again in mid-March, as New York began to take drastic measures (like shutting down schools and restricting public gatherings) in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus

Grocery stores in the New York metro area (Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, and Richmond counties), saw a similar response as those across the state.

This chart includes only data from grocery stores that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open grocery stores vs. a comparable day in 2019.

Again, you can see that on March 12th, as Governor Cuomo announced closures on everything from school districts to Broadway theatres, New Yorkers flooded nearby grocery stores and supermarkets. Sales remained high for the next several days as New Yorkers prepared to shelter in place for the foreseeable future.

More of the same for grocery stores in California

In addition to New York, California has had a disproportionately high number of confirmed coronavirus cases as a global travel hub. As with New York, California has been consistently high sales at local grocery stores with spikes corresponding to big COVID-19 news milestones. 

This chart includes only data from grocery stores that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open grocery stores vs. a comparable day in 2019.

Californians really seemed to start panic shopping in droves on Monday, March 16th, which saw the statewide average revenue up by almost 150%.

Here’s a drilldown for grocery stores in Los Angeles county:

This chart includes only data from grocery stores that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open grocery stores vs. a comparable day in 2019.

You see a huge spike here on Monday, March 16th. Then, as Los Angeles area locals began to prepare for a “shelter in place” ordinance, a massive 400% increase on Thursday, March 19th.

The view of bay area grocery stores, meanwhile, tells a dramatic story.

This chart includes only data from grocery stores that are still open and transacting. Each day represents a comparison of average daily revenue at open grocery stores vs. a comparable day in 2019.

As you can see, bay area grocery stores saw sales double starting on February 29th pretty much all the way through March 11th. Then, on March 12th (after the NBA suspended its season, among other major events), sales shot all the way up to 200% higher than in 2019.

On Monday, March 16th, bay area counties announced their “shelter in place” ordinance, set to begin on midnight March 17th. The result of that announcement was a jaw dropping 495% increase in sales at bay area grocery stores as locals cleared the shelves to prepare for three weeks indoors.

What’s next for U.S. grocery stores?

If COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S., we can expect continued runs on American grocery stores. That will result in spiky revenue patterns as consumers decimate store shelves, followed by supermarkets trying to restock. 

In general, this bodes well for grocery store revenue, although their inability to restock could lead to long-term softening in revenue. If the U.S. economy goes into recession as a result of the coronavirus, all local businesses will feel the pain, including grocers whose customers have to cut back. 

We will continue to update this data analysis over time, and we’re continuing to analyze sales patterns at other local business types such as restaurants, bars, retail stores, lodging businesses, and more. Stay tuned. 

Visit our COVID-19 research and resources page for more reports on the impact of coronavirus on local businesses

If you own a small business that is struggling due to COVID-19

Womply is acting as a facilitator to connect American small businesses to SBA-authorized lenders to get emergency loans for COVID-19 relief. Learn more here , or call us at 855-208-8813 for a free consultation”

Need capital fast? Small businesses can get $1,000 of interest-free, no-fee emergency capital in about 24 hours, with flexible repayment terms. No credit check, no strings attached.

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