New research shows three quarters face shortages as one in four stockpile


New research from consultancy Retail Economics and global law firm Squire Patton Boggs reveals that almost three quarters (72%) of shoppers are facing shortages of retail products as a quarter (25%) of consumers stockpile goods.

Have you stockpiled any retail products over fears of shortages because of the impact of the coronavirus?

Source: Retail Economics, Squire Patton Boggs

Actions of a few impact the many
As fears of the coronavirus grow, one in four consumers admits to stockpiling staples such as tinned food, dry goods and frozen foods, as well as essentials including toilet roll, paracetamol and hand wash. The proportion stockpiling has risen considerably, up from 1 in 10 consumers reported just two weeks ago.

Panic buying has left almost three quarters (72%) of consumers frustrated, saying that they have experienced difficulties in buying the products they want because they have been out of stock.

What types of products, if any, are you stockpiling as a result of the coronavirus?

“I cannot afford to stockpile”

Although nearly two-thirds (63%) now believe the coronavirus is a high threat to UK health – rising sharply on 36% two weeks ago – 15% of consumers cannot afford to stockpile despite having fears of shortages.

What’s more, consumers are focusing on essentials and holding back on discretionary goods. Shoppers cited clothing, leisure and travel-related expenditure as the key areas they are looking to cut back on.

Adding further pressure to the retail industry, two-fifths are avoiding public transport, restaurants and entertainment destinations, while a quarter are shunning shopping locations.

Which of the following actions, if any, are you taking now in order to protect yourself from the coronavirus?

Shift in public sentiment
The degree of uplift in consumers steering clear of certain locations and activities has been highly significant. The proportion of consumers currently avoiding shopping destinations has more than trebled in a fortnight, while the proportion of people avoiding restaurants and entertainment has quadrupled.

Online is anticipated to benefit as more people stay at home, with two thirds (64%) of consumers saying that they would buy more products online in the future to avoid physical destinations if the virus persists. And in the future, the majority of people intend to avoid public transport (63%), while those avoiding shopping locations could double to 49%.

Which of the following actions, if any, would you consider in the future to protect yourself from the coronavirus if it persists?

Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics, said: “The pace of change over the past two weeks has been staggering. We’re in completely unchartered territory, living through a period of unprecedented uncertainty, accompanied by a heightened degree of fear.

“People’s perception is their reality and images of empty supermarket shelves is fuelling one in four to stockpile essentials, leaving many others unable to find the products they need.

“The majority of UK consumers now believe the coronavirus is a high threat to health. Naturally, they have battened down the hatches, focussing on essentials as their natural order of life comes under threat.

“The coronavirus is having huge implications for the high street, with the proportion of people avoiding shopping destinations more than trebling since we last did the survey two weeks ago. This will hit city centre footfall the hardest and will inevitably leave many retailers in a precarious situation.

“The industry was already under intense pressure before the breakout and it appears unavoidable that many retailers will be pushed to breaking point. What’s more, with the retail property market already reeling from intense structural change, many landlords will find it a struggle to support their occupiers with rent holidays. The government has swiftly and decisively to try and ensure the wounds inflicted on the industry do not scar it indefinitely. Only time will tell if they have gone far enough.”

Matthew Lewis, head of retail at Squire Patton Boggs, said: “The concerns of consumers are mirrored by the concerns of retailers, suppliers and those in the hospitality and leisure sectors. After an initial period of employers taking stock of the situation, we are now seeing wide implementation of layoffs, short-time working and redundancies as the changing habits of consumers, travel restrictions and self-isolation begin to bite. If the virus persists and the consumer behaviour we have identified in our survey proves to be a reality, with an increasing number avoiding shopping destinations, the impact will only worsen. Although online shopping may hold out (with reports that Amazon is providing overtime), as life becomes more uncertain, it is likely to lead to a general tightening of belts.”