Online Wholesale Behaviour Changes with Consumer Lockdown Trends

As the UK hits a month of being under lockdown, shoppers are adapting to home working, home cooking, and a newfound love of home baking.  Shoppers continue to visit convenience stores more than twice per week, the highest frequency for any channel.  The traditional convenience store products such as newspapers/magazines and soft drinks are featuring in fewer baskets, as shoppers, primarily on top up missions (planned or distressed), purchase more chilled dairy and wrapped bakery.

As consumers limit their trips outside to only essential visits, they are relying more heavily on convenience stores for top ups.  This, in turn, means that wholesaler websites have seen both increased traffic and rapidly changing retailer behaviour.

In mid-March, as the UK prepared for the likelihood of a lockdown and with empty shelves appearing across supermarkets as shoppers began to stockpile, convenience retailers focused on maintaining stock of cupboard staples.  This boosted dry goods, with pasta and rice seeing a significant uplift in revenue during this period.  With the UK now in the second, extended phase of lockdown, priorities are shifting from stocking up in preparation for lockdown to adapting to a ‘new normal’.  Revenues for pasta and rice have begun to stabilise, while the closure of pubs has seen retailers looking to bridge this gap, with alcohol revenues seeing an uptick throughout April.

Retailers are changing their buying behaviour as they seek to keep their stores stocked with the products that their customers are looking to buy.  The recent trend for home baking has caused a surge in searches for baking products, with ‘atta flour’ seeing an almost 6000% increase in searches, and yeast, flour, and caster sugar also seeing significantly increased interest.  As was the case in the early lockdown period, retailers remain in problem-solving mode, with ‘germ’ as the top search term as retailers look for any relative product, whilst specific searches for toilet roll and hand sanitiser have decreased.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak soft drinks dominated search on web, accounting for 50% of the top 100 search terms.  Meanwhile, during the pre-lockdown and early lockdown period, with shoppers stocking up on hand sanitiser, household cleaning products and toilet paper, household/non-food products accounted for 29% of the top 100 search terms.  Now in peak coronavirus quarantine, as well as the long Easter weekend and warmer weather, retailers are shifting their focus to alcohol, which accounted for 28% of the top search terms between the 19th March and 16th April.

With search terms and revenues changing rapidly with as consumer concerns and desires evolve, it is essential that products can be easily found on the website.  Accurate tagging and ensuring that retailers are kept informed about stock availability and delivery times is important – ideally through a dedicated, and frequently updated, coronavirus information page. As consumers use social media more than ever as a means of connection, sharing pictures of freshly baked banana bread and sourdough, curious retailers will do well to keep an eye on what is trending as a useful indicator of which products they are likely to see increased demand for.  


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