Consumer confidence in grocery stores declines as COVID-19 financial concerns linger

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: GettyImages / Luis Alvarez
Photo Credit: GettyImages / Luis Alvarez

Related tags Grocery shopping COVID-19

More US shoppers report feeling unhappy with how grocery stores are handling the COVID-19 crisis now, including a prominent concern around the cost and price of their groceries, than earlier this year, according to dunnhumby in its latest Consumer Pulse Survey fielded this month.

For the study​, dunnhumby surveyed 58,089 respondents online in 24 countries. Approximately 400 individuals were interviewed in each country for each Wave of the study, and respondents were roughly 60% female and 40% male.

In its eighth wave of its survey, dunnhumby reported that 64% of US shoppers are unhappy with how stores are handling the COVID-19 virus currently compared to 50% of respondents who reported feeling unhappy in February 2021. 

On a higher level, 83% of consumers surveyed said that the government isn't doing a good job at handling the crisis, marking the lowest point of confidence since the start of the pandemic, according to dunnhumby.

Value-seeking consumers left dissatisfied

Specific areas where consumers report feeling dissatisfied are in the lack of value-priced options, noted dunnhumby.

Many shoppers remain budget-conscious when grocery shopping as over half (55%) of consumers feel the economy is weak and 40% report that their personal finances are also weak. 

Although the number of value seeking shoppers did decline slightly by 3% since dunnhumby's last survey conducted over six months ago. Value-seeking consumers (66%) continue to surpass quality seeking consumers (19%), reported dunnhumby.

“After living with the pandemic for 20 months, consumers are now twice as concerned about their personal finances as they are about COVID itself. With inflation persisting, and government stimulus’ phased out,​ the majority of shoppers are now looking for greater value,” said Grant Steadman, president for North America at dunnhumby.

Top money-saving behaviors among those surveyed included stocking on products while on sale (36%), searching online for sales (32%), searching online for coupons (29%), and trying to buy larger pack sizes (26%).

While 20% of consumers feel that no store currently provides good value for their money, Walmart continued to be cited by consumers as providing the best value (29%), followed by Aldi (12%), Kroger (7%), and Target (6%). Amazon fell out of the top five stores for value and landed with 4%.

“Retailers who are perceived as offering more value, and respond to their customers increasing need for this, will earn the loyalty of the new customers they gained during the early phases of the pandemic,” ​added Steadman.

Among consumers' top concerns when it comes to grocery shopping are unvaccinated shoppers in stores (34%), according to the survey.

Shopping behaviors remain steady

However, the survey also found that despite the perception that stores aren’t doing well dealing with the virus, satisfaction with the experience remains flat over time (34% net satisfaction reported in March 2020 compared to 32% in September 2021) and adaptive shopping behaviors are declining.

Despite lingering concerns related to the virus, fewer respondents said they strategically shop when fewer people will be in the store (42% in September 2021 vs. 63% in March 2020) and 24% reported making fewer shopping trips per week compared to an all-time high of 74% in March 2020.

According to dunnhumby, total shopping trips per week declined online slightly from 6.4 to 6.0 trips since February 2021 (but up from 3.8 trips in March 2020).

According to dunnhumby, the number of people who shop both in-store and online has increased to 47% since the beginning of the pandemic when it hovered at 35%.

Despite increased online shopping behavior, consumer net satisfaction was only slightly higher for online retailers than in-store shopping (35% vs. 32%), dunnhumby found.

Read the dunnhumby's full report findings.

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