Covid-19 Continues To Profoundly Impact Shopper Behavior And Buying Decisions At Retail

Catalina Marketing, the leader in shopper intelligence and personalized digital media for CPG brands and retailers, has continued to mine its unparalleled Buyer Intelligence Database for the fourth consecutive week to track sales in those categories experiencing either spikes or declines as the U.S. population pays closer attention to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since our Buyer Intelligence Database captures up to three years of purchase history, and more than two billion Unique Product Codes that are scanned daily, we can provide our customers with nearly real-time insights and sales data that help inform their marketing decisions and even stocking and supply chain activities during extraordinary times like the country is currently facing,” said Marta Cyhan, Chief Marketing Officer at Catalina. “Store trips began growing around March 1st and really took off last week -- with visits peaking around March 13. For the week ending March 14, total dollar sales per store were up 60%, driven by 17% more shopping trips and basket sizes that increased an average of 37% versus the prior year.”

Coronavirus Concerns Stoke Sales in Previously Declining Categories
As coronavirus awareness and concern really started to take root on February 15th, Catalina began reviewing sales data on 756 categories and identified 224 categories that had previously been in decline. Of these, 177 categories have experienced upswings in sales over the past month. Some of the most dramatic include:

  • Powdered milk, up 375%
  • Chlorine bleach, up 340%
  • Dry, hearty soups, up 235%
  • Deodorant soap bars, up 218%
  • Canned meat stews, up 185%
  • Aluminum foil, up 86%

Facing Weeks at Home, Many Shoppers Select Items to Help Pass Time
Sales lifts in several categories reflect a growing trend toward sheltering in place in one’s own household, as more businesses adopt work-from-home models and schools close nationwide. These categories include products that are likely intended to help pass the time:

  • Books, up 42%
  • Smoking Accessories, up 29%
  • Fire logs, up 25%
  • Condoms, up 25%
  • Games and puzzles, up 23%
  • Toys, up 22%
  • Educational Development Toys, up 11%
  • Magazines, up 8%

Yes, Stockpiling Toilet Paper is a Thing
Toilet paper hoarding in recent weeks has been a much-discussed phenomenon:

  • Premium toilet paper sales increased 379% for the week ending March 14 compared to the prior year and 376% vs the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Value-brand toilet paper sales increased 326% for the week ending March 14 compared to the prior year and 321% vs the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Folded flushable personal wipes surged 372% for the week ending March 14 compared to the prior year and 369% vs the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020, likely spurred by consumers stockpiling toilet paper nationwide.
  • Perhaps also driven by the toilet paper shortage, baby wipe sales shot up 343% for the week ending March 14 vs. the prior year and 339% vs the six weeks ending Feb. 15, 2020.

Working from Home Likely Spurs Sales Declines in Categories Related to Personal Grooming
As more companies asked employees to work from home, there were noteworthy sales declines in several categories for the week ending March 14 vs. the prior year, all of which are tied to one’s personal appearance.

  • Cosmetics - Lips, down 23%
  • Cosmetics - Applicators, down 20%
  • Make-up Gift Sets, down 19%
  • Grooming/Trimming devices, down 18%
  • Women’s Colognes/Perfumes, down 12%

“Our role as a strategic partner to retailers and brands is to share data insights that help them unearth the facts, understand buyer behavior, and plan accordingly to continue meeting the needs of their shoppers, while also preparing for the months ahead once the precautionary measures surrounding COVID-19 have passed and people return to their normal routines,” noted Cyhan.

NOTE: For a copy of the Catalina Buyer Intelligence Database’s raw data (NOT FOR DIRECT REPRODUCTION), contact

About Catalina
Catalina is the market leader in buyer intelligence and hyper-personalized in-store and digital media to measurably drive, track and measure sales lift, converting shoppers into loyal buyers for leading CPG retailers and brands. Powered by the most extensive shopper database in the world, Catalina’s mobile, online and in-store networks personalize the consumer’s path to purchase, delivering $7.9 billion in relevant consumer value each year. Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Catalina has operations in the United States, Europe, Japan and Latin America. To learn more, please visit or follow us on Twitter @Catalina.

Media Contact
Wally Petersen/Catalina