Panic buying in grocery stores is easing as customers adjust to a new normal, according to data released by Statistics Canada for March and April. The report shows data up to April 11, 2020 and reveals a significant spike in spending at Canadian grocery stores during the first three weeks in March, with stockpiling type purchasing starting to ebb by mid-April.
By way of example, for the week ending March 21 -- the first full week of self-isolation and physical distancing for many Canadians -- retail grocery sales surged by 40 per cent compared to the same week in 2019. Over the next three weeks, the surge was less dramatic, with year-over-year sales climbing 19 per cent for the week ending April 11.
The purchasing patterns were particularly evident in the health and personal care category. In the first week of March, hand sanitizer sales rose 792 per cent over the same week last year; by April 11, sales had slowed down, albeit a still significant increase of 345 per cent, when compared to the same period last year.
While sales for cold remedies (-11%) returned to pre-pandemic levels, sales for soap (+68%) and masks and gloves (+114%) remained high in the week ending April 11, relative to sales one year ago, though sales of the latter may have been affected by reported shortages.
Sales for household paper products moderated in the first weeks of April, but remained higher than those recorded a year ago. Bathroom tissue, which continued to captivate Canadians’ attention in the media, saw sales increase at a slower rate in April after reassurances from manufacturers that supply was not an issue, but remained high above historic levels in the week ending April 11, registering an 81 per cent increase over the same week last year.
Amid stories of stress baking and sourdough starters, sales of flour continue to surpass those registered last year, rising above 200 per cent year-over-year in March, and reaching 81 per cent in the week ending April 11, compared to the same period a year ago. Increased year-over-year sales in other baking supplies include butter and margarine (+18%), eggs (+44%) and milk (+21%).