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COVID-19 drives fewer shopping trips, but bigger baskets for Swiss shoppers
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COVID-19 drives fewer shopping trips, but bigger baskets for Swiss shoppers

Philipp Berger, Senior Analytic Consultant

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The coronavirus has led to a change in purchasing behaviour for Swiss consumers. This is no surprise in terms of the products purchased. Hygiene products such as hand disinfection, toilet paper etc. but also long-life food (mashed potatoes, rice, flour etc.) were in high demand. This led to hamster purchases and empty shelves in the shops. 

But what effect did this have on the frequency of shopping and the value of the shopping baskets?

On the day when the Federal Council classified the situation as an “exceptional situation under the Epidemics Act” (16 March 2020), the average value of the shopping baskets skyrocketed. While on a Monday in the previous weeks (week 02-08/2020) the value was around 35 CHF, Swiss households spent an average of just under 50 CHF per shopping trip on 16 March! That is a plus of almost 45%.

Weekly purchases, for example on Friday, have also increased massively in value. While Mr. and Mrs. Schweizer spent an average of CHF 50 per shopping trip (Friday) in the first few weeks of the year when the coronavirus seemed to be far away, this figure has risen by over 30% to CHF 65 in the last two weeks.

There has therefore been a clear trend towards bulk or stock purchases (big trolley). The inhabitants of Switzerland are currently being urged to leave the house only when it is really necessary. The trend in purchasing frequency shows very clearly that they are complying with this in terms of purchases. In the last two weeks, we have registered far fewer shopping acts in our household panel, especially on Saturdays, than it was the case at the beginning of the year. It seemed that many households wanted to avoid the typical “big shopping day”. Especially in week 12 it became apparent that the shopping acts were much more spread over the whole week. In the following week 13, this trend subsided somewhat. Nevertheless, the decline in the purchase file on Saturday is still clearly visible.

How sustainable is the changed purchasing behavior?

It will be important for both producers and retailers to continue to monitor the current changes in purchasing behavior very closely even after the coronavirus crisis. If households continue to stock up on their bulk purchases on days other than typically Friday and Saturday, this will have an impact on logistics, among other things. In order to meet demand and avoid out-of-stocks, “replenishment” will have to be readjusted. Perhaps this will also give new opportunities to design and plan promotions, as Monday, for example, has become an important shopping day.