Shoppers are ditching their primary grocery stores during the pandemic

Illustration for article titled Shoppers are ditching their primary grocery stores during the pandemic
Photo: Katrina Wittkamp (Getty Images)

[Infomercial voice]: Have you found yourself exploring uncharted grocery stores over the past two months? Taking notice of random supermarkets that, prior to the COVID-19 crisis, you just drove on past? Wondering whether your food vendor of choice makes sense for you anymore? You are not alone. [Normal, Grace voice]: According to a McKinsey survey, 20% of Americans have changed their go-to grocery store during the coronavirus lockdowns. The world is upside-down, so why bother clinging to our precious little grocery habits?

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McKinsey asked 1,500 shoppers about their grocery habits, and a fifth of them now claim a new store their primary one. (That’s 23% of men and 18% of women who answered.) The main reason the changers cited was their typical grocery store running out of items. That change makes sense—I mean, in an age where we’re supposed to be out as little as possible, if you’re just going to have to go to a second store to get some of the items on your list, why not do all your shopping at that second store?

Other reasons for shifting primary purveyors were finding better online shopping and delivery options (24% said so); perceived cleanliness/safety of the alternative grocery store; and more affordable prices. I’ve changed to a new supermarket that’s simply less busy than my regular one, which I guess falls into the “safety” bucket, but I think it also falls into an unlisted “I’m tired of waiting in line outside to buy eggs” bucket.

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While the study came out this week, the data was collected in mid-April. So, given the rate at which, you know, all this [gestures wildly] is changing, it’s possible that these figures are higher now. If you haven’t switched stores yet, enjoy the cozy familiarity of your go-to supermarket while you still can.

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DISCUSSION

I still shop at the same stores, We don’t have any Mom and Pop grocery stores where I live, so it’s the same three. Aldi, Meijer, and occasionally Kroger.

But can we talk about the social distancing trend of “one way aisles” for a second? Is there anything more asinine? I mean, I get what they are TRYING to do, which is minimize people facing each other as they pass. But who here shops in a straight line from aisle to aisle and knows where everything is? Not me! Sometimes I’ll walk up and down an aisle 10 times trying to find something, especially when things are still in short supply. This makes going “one way” impossible. And if I’m on one side and need to go down an aisle for something I want, but it’s the wrong way, following the arrows forces me down a completely different aisle in order to go down the aisle I want from the opposite direction, thus doubling my exposure to people that I may not have even come into contact with if I could just go right to the items I want in the direction that’s most convenient.