But no matter the country, behaviors are rapidly changing. Across all geographies, consumer demand appears to be beginning to stabilize, although in some categories, demand is significantly higher or lower than in previous years. And IRI researchers say they’ve never seen anything like it.
“We have had disruptions due to hurricanes and polar vertex in the past, but never one of this magnitude where there is a pandemic-induced forced economic shut down,” observed Cara Loeys, principal for growth consulting, IRI. “Consumers are not traveling or leaving their homes, airports, restaurants and other public places are closed. Government is spending massively to compensate for these negative effects. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event and unprecedented.”
It all adds up to unprecedented fast moving consumer goods purchasing patterns, too. Loyes pointed out that given stay-at-home orders, there was a surge of panic buying in the middle of March.
“All consumers are being asked to social distance and wear cloth masks, not to go out much except for buying most essential things,” noted Loeys. “So consumers are taking fewer trips to the store and buying all they need in one shopping as opposed to going to multiple stores to fill their groceries.”
The initial surge and the continued elevated levels of grocery shopping, surprised IRI analysts.
“Since more consumers are staying at home and not frequenting restaurants and bars, there is a surge in demand for many food and beverage products, and preventative health-related products like hand sanitizers, wipes, paper products,” explained Loeys.
The IRI data reveals when consumers began stockpiling, the earliest being the week of February 9 in Italy and Greece, and what consumers initially loaded up on. As one might suspect, non-edible products like home care and OTC products were in high demand in Italy, whereas in the US and UK, paper products were at the top of the buying spree. But by the first week in April, consumers in most countries had started moderating their purchasing. In fact, sales in OTC healthcare, personal care and cosmetics categories all declined by the first week in April, according to IRI.
Apparently, as the lockdown lingers, shoppers have decided that if they’re not going out, they might as well eat. IRI’s research found consumers have shifted from stocking up across total store to focused purchases of food and beverages. Fill-in trips include fresh and frozen foods to offset pantry items.
“Now we see more growth in comfort categories like baking and alcohol, as well as fresh foods coming back,” said Loeys. “Some categories like cosmetics, personal care or those purchased more on impulse or on-the-go are benefitting the least or even declining.”
But the news isn’t comforting to cosmetics marketers and their suppliers. Sales of cosmetics tumbled 32% from February to the first week in April, according to IRI. That stay-at-home trend is expected to last longer than the lockdown. IRI analysts say several trends will continue:
• Shift to e-Commerce;
• More consumption in-home, awareness of personal hygiene, and
• More work from home.
The new normal will require change from suppliers notes Loeys.
“Marketers need to adapt to the emerging trends and tailor their offerings, where possible, to the new stay-at-home and work-from-home families.”
Here's a look at what's been popular in US mass market personal care categories during the first month that coronavirus took hold.