Many American consumers are returning to, or sticking with, the bulk-buying patterns seen at the start of the pandemic, judging by sales at club stores and other metrics.
The Wall Street Journal quoted IRI statistics showing that the biggest four club store chains collectively had sales that were 26.6% higher in dollars and 18% in volume, much higher than other retail channels for consumer goods. Overall sales for food and beverages grew 3% in 2020 and 2021, compared with 0.5% growth before the pandemic. Average package sizes were up 2.1% by volume per unit.
Product shortages, although not as severe as at the beginning of the pandemic, still persist: foods and beverages are 85% in stock, compared with 93% to 95% pre-pandemic. Conagra increased production of Marie Callender’s pot pies by 25%, and Kraft Heinz is installing a new line for mac & cheese cups. In addition, rising inflation is motivating some consumers to save by buying in bulk.
“Buying food in bulk at stores like Sam’s [Club] helps keep the cost down and allows us to keep our stockpile up,” a mother in Detroit told the Journal.
Another metric that points to hoarding is increased demand for home freezers. Sales of chest freezers more than doubled last year over 2019.