COVID-19 survey reveals experiences of consumers in trying to access essential items

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26th May 2020 10:57 - FMCG

COVID-19 survey reveals experiences of consumers in trying to access essential items: A survey carried out by Loughborough University in April has revealed insight into the experiences of people trying to buy essential food items in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

It looked at their experiences in February and March, when reports of panic buying, stockpiling and images of empty shelves were making headlines. 

When asked which items they found out of stock the most, the survey found that toilet roll was the most difficult to purchase, with 14% saying they had been unable to do so, followed by pasta (12%), flour (11%) and eggs (11%). 

Other items included rice (10%), kitchen towels (8%), tinned goods (8%), milk (7%) and bread (7%). Meat (5%) cooking oil(4%) and fish (3%) were also noted. 

Although many items were back in stock by April, the research found that items such as flour, pasta and rice were still amongst the most difficult items to purchase. 

The research suggested that key workers and those considered 'vulnerable' were the worst affected, with around two-thirds of both groups polled said they had struggled when it came to purchasing everyday essentials. 

The research also looked at consumer experiences of online shopping due to the pandemic, with 85% saying that packaged foods (pasta, rice, etc) were 'always', or 'frequently' out of stock when they came to do their online shop. 

It showed that the majority of people surveyed (79%) thought supermarkets were correct to limit certain pharmaceutical items such as hand sanitizer and paracetamol, with 95% saying they also thought measures to prevent stockpiling (such as supermarkets limiting items to 3 units), were necessary. 

When asked what supermarket they had been using, the clear winner was Tesco, with 73.1% of respondents relying on the retailer. In second place was Sainsbury's (39.4%) followed by Aldi (35.5%), Asda (33%), Morrisons (28.7%), Lidl (24.4%), Co-op (22.2%), M&S (15.8%), Waitrose (13.3%), Iceland (11.1%) and Spar (2.5%). 

Dr. Uchitha Jayawickrama, of the School of Business and Economics (SBE), at Loughborough University, said:

"This study gave some critical insights on which product categories and items were out of stock, and how this pandemic affected different consumer groups."

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