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The pandemic’s economic impact on Americans at all income levels and continuing financial uncertainty have spurred new shopper attitudes and buying behaviors, according to “The Pandemic’s Financial Impact on Shopper Behavior,” a new report by R² and Advantage Solutions.

The financial status of four in 10 Americans has been negatively affected since COVID-19 and nearly one-third expect their financial situation to worsen in the coming months, according to the report, which is based on the responses of 1,804 U.S. primary household shoppers and those who shared shopping responsibility participating in an online survey fielded between May 13 and May 18, 2020 by Advantage Solutions’ Analytics, Insights & Intelligence team.

As the pandemic has put low-income shoppers under great strain, these shoppers are pessimistic about their financial outlook and plan to spend less on all grocery product categories compared to middle-income and affluent shoppers, the report found. On the other end of the financial spectrum, affluent Americans are experiencing financial anxiety, too, which is affecting how they shop and what they buy. Compared to other income groups, more of these shoppers plan to increase their purchases of store brands in the next three months.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Out-of-stocks, shoppers switching retailers and new financial concerns are putting pressure on brand loyalty. More than half (55%) of shoppers surveyed tried an alternate brand and 28% of respondents who switched brands said they expected to make the switch permanent.

  • Low-income and affluent shoppers were slightly more likely than middle-income shoppers to report switching food brands during their pandemic shopping trips, with affluent shoppers and financial optimists most likely to expect to make a food brand switch permanent.

  • Financial outlook influences likelihood of using online food services. Financial optimists are more likely to embrace online services, while those who expect their personal finances to worsen in the near future are least likely to have used online grocery pickup or delivery service.

  • As the pandemic’s financial impact spreads, nearly half of respondents say, when looking ahead three months, they will be seeking ways to save money (48%) and looking for promotions (46%). About half of these two groups plan to buy lower-priced brands.

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