Following the government’s announcement of confinement in response to the spread of the coronavirus, a peak in consumption in the FMCG industry emerged. From the first weekend, the supermarket stores were emptied, leading to a considerable increase in turnover. Temporary or continuous increase? Increase or decrease in consumption? And in which sectors?
Mass consumption : a variable turnover
As a reminder, the confinement was announced on Thursday, March 12. The few days that followed multiplied the turnover by 3.5 for FMCG (237%)¹ ! However, this increase was short-lived, since as soon as confinement was enforced on Tuesday lunchtime, the sector suffered a 5% drop compared to the same period in 2019.
This peak may partially be explained by the anxiety that the confinement caused among consumers. Among the possible explanations, there might be the fear of being contaminated and suffering a shortage of goods. This could have pushed consumers to make provisions in quantity at the beginning of confinement, which explains why this significant increase should be followed by a fall in turnover compared to the previous year. Since these consumers had the opportunity to stock up, they did not need to make these same purchases on the days that followed. Moreover, travel restrictions, which have since been monitored by the authorities, have undoubtedly had a significant impact.
Most of us recall the events at the first shelves to be emptied in stores : salty groceries and paper. This purchasing behaviour drastically increased sales of pasta by 122%, rice by 123%. Ready meals have increasing by 129% and canned vegetables by 86%. Consumers sought to stock up on products that can be preserved over time. And this even for animal proteins : frozen meat 109%, frozen poultry 116% and frozen fish 108%.
The winners of sales in the paper category are toilet paper and paper towels with a 92% increase in sales!
Retail by sector according to BAC Internal Data
Focus on e-commerce
E-commerce plays a key role in maintaining activity in some sectors to compensate for losses due to store closures or travel restrictions. However, not all industries are able to respond so quickly to the current crisis, which will make them suffer more than others.
The tourism industry is heavily impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. Indeed, confinement has caused the cancellation of trips booked for the April school holidays, and reduced purchases on travel sites by 20.8%. The hotel industry also had a conversion rate that dropped by 7.7% on the same period.
In the same way, the sports equipment sector suffered a 28.4% loss of transactions, as the confined scope of sporting activities was reduced.
For FMCG, there is an increase of 19.9% of turnover and the duration spent on websites has increased of 25.7% compared the previous year. These increases may indicate that consumers still need help to find products they are looking for on these websites.
An upward trend is also observed in the online pharmacy and para-pharmacy industry as transactions increased by 27.3% and a 23% decrease in time spent on the site. Which could be explained by the consumers having a precise idea of what they wish to buy.
Meanwhile ready-to-wear products are also successful with transactions up increasing by 7.3% and time spent on the site increasing by 13.9% compared to the previous year. Many households are saving money during this period with the drop in fuel expenses and outdoor paid activities. As a result, they can afford in this period to allocate more budget to other activities e.g. ready-to-wear clothing.
What next ?
In any case, these new consumption habits may potentially leave their mark on consumer behaviour. Although the reopening of retail outlets will lead to a decrease of the purchases made through other channels, Some consumers may still be seduced by e-commerce and its many benefits.
For some consumers and products, physical stores will remain a must have. Because it allows them to touch, feel, taste the products, which is not possible whilst online. Moreover, there is a different commitment from customers when they are in stores compare to online.
However, the confinement may have made it possible to further generalize e-commerce and delivery and to demonstrate their added value.
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