Shopping Patterns Are Serving As A Reflection Of An Evolving Virus


3 Min Read |

Initial priorities for concerned shoppers led to an increase in purchases for hand sanitizer, disinfectants and toilet paper. However, hair clippers and hair dye are now flying off shelves.

In recent weeks, behavior of American shoppers is serving as a reflection of how the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve and affect daily lives.

“You can definitely see that as people have stayed home, their focus shifted,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said on Friday.

After stocking up on essentials such as food and consumable products, shoppers turned their attention to puzzles, games and other timeless forms of entertainment as well as education, he said.

Now, sales are reflecting that — without the opportunity to visit a salon — clients are in need of maintenance and grooming.

“People are starting to need a haircut,” McMillon said. “You see more beard trimmers and hair color and things like that. It’s interesting to watch the dynamic play out.”

Soap and hand sanitizer flew off shelves in the early weeks of the pandemic. The first wave of increased shopping showed consumers were looking for various ways to protect themselves as the virus spread in the United States — masks, cleaning products and hand sanitizers.

In early March, hand sanitizer sales rose sharply by 470% on the previous year, according to Nielsen data. Aerosol disinfectant product sales skyrocketed 385%. Consumers nationwide were behaving as if they were preparing for the worst.

“We are working to keep our shelves packed with products similar to when a blizzard is being called for and folks know they might be stuck at home,” Andrea Karns, vice president of sales and marketing at Karns Foods, a family-owned chain of nine stores in Pennsylvania, told CNN Business in early March.

Customers lined up to buy toilet paper on fears that coronavirus would spread and force people to stay indoors.

Then, in a buying binge that  mystified many and served as an inspiration for Covid-19 memes and gags, shoppers stockpiled toilet paper. Panic buying fueled further panic buying, and the run on bathroom tissue sent ripple effects through the industry and supply chain.

“Most mills are 24 hours, 7 days a week operations already. They are running on fixed capacity,” Tom Sellars, CEO of Sellars Absorbent Materials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, told CNN Business last month. “It’s not like there’s an idle machine that can be cranked up to increase production.”

Nielsen reported that bath tissue, facial tissue and paper towel products all saw triple-digit sales increases around mid April. That same time, aerosol disinfectant sales spiked 519%, according to Nielsen.

At the beginning of April, data also showed that consumers were starting to gravitate toward products to maintain their appearance. With barber shops and salons closed, many Americans are self-grooming at home. Sales of hair clippers and hair coloring products have spiked.

Sales of hair clippers increased 166% and hair coloring products rose 23%, from the same period a year earlier, according to Nielsen.

Americans have become do-it-yourself barbers and stylists as hair salons across the nation have temporarily shuttered to maintain social distancing measures.

Although closing down is financially stressful, many businesses understand the seriousness of the situation. “By asking a stylist to come to you or you going to them, it’s still very high risk,” according to one Dallas salon owner, “I don’t want to put myself at risk [of catching the coronavirus] just to make sure someone’s hair is pretty.”

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