This report provides an overview of how leading grocery companies responded to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis between January and March 2020. The companies included in this report are Albertsons, Auchan, Casino-Guichard, Carrefour, Cencosud, FEMSA, Koninlijke, Tesco, Walmart and Woolworth’s. Key strategies employed in this quarter included getting creative to meet online demand, adjusting store operations for how consumers shop now and protecting workers.
Online grocery purchases saw a huge increase in the first quarter of 2020 as consumers sought low-risk ways to complete their regular shopping and in some cases turned to new channels to find items that were out of stock locally. Grocery players who had been investing in omnichannel capabilities over the past few years received a sudden return on these investments as they found themselves more capable to address this demand.
Many consumers in Q1 2020 were drawn to try curbside pick-up, a form of click and collect, for the first time. Demand for home delivery outpaced retailers’ capacity in many markets, and many retailers positioned curbside pick-up as a convenient, low-cost alternative. Curbside pick-up is likely to continue to grow in the months ahead as consumers remain hesitant to spend time in-store and as non-essential retailers are increasingly allowed to use stores to fulfil online orders.
Many grocery retailers temporarily revised their return policies in Q1 2020 to support smooth store operations and to limit spread of the virus. Some retailers restricted returns only of key items such as toilet paper and hand sanitiser, while others, such as the US mass merchandiser Target, temporarily suspended all in-store returns in March.
The lead-up to the Easter holiday is an important shopping season in many countries. Easter, which took place on 12 April 2020, was heavily affected by the COVID-19 outbreak as consumers were more cautious with their spending and largely unable to meet with family to celebrate. Many grocery retailers engaged in unusual, early discounting of seasonal Easter merchandise, such as Easter-themed confectionery and flowers.
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