On-demand services, fast checkout, convenient meal solutions, home decor and recreation were among the top shopping trends tallied by supercenter retailer Meijer after passing the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meijer said yesterday that home delivery and pickup services doubled at stores over the past 12 months. Another digital option also took hold: Customers used the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer’s Shop & Scan technology more than 100 million times to maintain social distancing and lessen time spent in the store. Accessed via the free Meijer Mobile app, Shop & Scan enables shoppers to scan product barcodes with their smartphone, keeping a running total of groceries and other merchandise added to their virtual cart, and then pay for the items by scanning their phone at a self-checkout lane.
Customers also have been opting for fast meal choices. With wait times for restaurant take-out increasing, Meijer said, stores saw a sharp rise in grab-and-go items — including sushi — and easy meal offerings for families to eat together at home. Rotisserie chicken remains one of the most popular selections, with more the 500,000 sold over the last month, the retailer said. During the pandemic, customers also turned to pre-made meals from local restaurants that have partnered with Meijer to make their selected menu items available in some communities.
Bulk purchasing has risen as well. Instead of buying each piece of produce separately, more shoppers stocked up on items like potatoes, tomatoes and apples in bagged quantities, according to Meijer. Customers also focused on boosting their immunity, such as by adding oranges, lemons, grapefruit and dietary supplements to their shopping lists.
Unsurprisingly, face masks, hand sanitizer and surface cleaners were top sellers throughout 2020, as customers scrambled to protect themselves from the virus, Meijer reported. Also seeing big sales increases were disposable dishes, aluminum foil, baking paper and food storage, fueled by a surge in home cooking and baking. Most recently, shoppers are focusing on home organizing and adding more environmentally safe cleaning solutions to their supply closets.
Meijer operates 256 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
“We continue to applaud our store teams that worked diligently throughout the pandemic to find solutions that would help our customers find the products they needed while keeping their families safe,” Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at Meijer, said in a statement. “It was a year rife with challenge, and although it’s not yet over, we see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Shopping trends also reflect home and work lifestyle changes triggered by pandemic shutdowns, Meijer noted. For example, when local gyms and fitness centers were forced to close temporarily, customers across the chain’s Midwest market area sought home fitness products such as yoga mats, exercise straps, curl bars and hand weights, which the company said “became hot sellers” and saw more than 300% growth in demand.
Similarly, the surge in working from home spurred more home office-related purchases. Meijer said sales of thermal curtains and weighted blankets 50%-plus year over year as shoppers tried to keep heating bills down and block light in their home offices. Spa-themed candles experienced a 160% sales increase since the start of the pandemic as customers sought to enliven their workspaces.
Likewise, Meijer sold more than 1 million bed pillows in 2020, with shoppers opting for white goods with antimicrobial properties and pillows to enhance comfort working at home and performing tasks such as keeping up with email and streaming TV shows. Decorative pillows also were used to enliven backgrounds for video calls. Though working from home stands to lessen as vaccines help the nation climb out of the pandemic, Meijer said it expects double-digit growth of bedrest pillows to continue this year.
More time at home also meant more purchases to alleviate boredom. Meijer pointed out that as pandemic-related shutdowns proliferated, customers bought new video game hardware and accessories, board games and puzzles to stay busy and entertained. The retailer said it sold more bikes, pools and grills than past years and saw more than a 60% gain in fishing poles and gear sales, as an estimated 9 million new anglers picked up the hobby.
“As communities have begun to reopen, we’re continuing to find new ways to be flexible as customers reshape their shopping habits for the warmer weather of a new year,” Whitsett stated.
Other trends were revealed at Meijer Express locations. Meijer said these convenience outlets saw gas sales decline because of less commuting, but at the same time they became destinations for customers seeking quick trips as shutdowns cut retailer operating hours. Besides sales jumps in late-night snacks and beverages, 24-hour Meijer Express locations saw double-digit growth in firewood and propane sales for backyard gatherings and camping trips. Scratch-off and weekly lottery sales also were up more than 25% at Meijer stores and Meijer Express locations during the past 12 months.