Pandemic will change retail’s ‘new normal,’ say industry – Toronto Sun

COVID has changed how we shop, according to recent studies

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A empty storefront along Queen St. W., near Ossington Ave. in Toronto, Ont.  on Tuesday March 9, 2021.
A empty storefront along Queen St. W., near Ossington Ave. in Toronto, Ont. on Tuesday March 9, 2021. Photo by Ernest Doroszuk /Toronto Sun

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we shop, according to several recent studies looking at consumer shopping habits.


Similar to how the Great Depression influenced consumer behaviour, the anxiety many shoppers faced from lockdowns to supply-chain issues could have an effect on retail trends for generations to come.

With the second year of the pandemic almost coming to an end, we take a look what the ever-evolving new “normal” in retail looks like, according to recent industry reports.

Stockpiling of essentials

At the start of the health crisis, people around the world started hoarding essential items as lockdowns were imposed.

Yet even with everyday household items such as toilet paper and bleach back in stock, many people don’t want to be caught unprepared again.

According to a survey released over the summer by U.S. shopping rewards app Shopkick, 66% of Americans said they will always be stocked up on essential items.


E-commerce gets a boost

According to data from IBM’s 2020 U.S. Retail Index , the pandemic accelerated the shift to e-commerce by about five years.

Pre-pandemic, online purchases represented just under 14% of all retail sales. At the start of the lockdowns in the second quarter of 2020, online sales jumped by 26%.

Subscription services surge

With this increase in online shopping, people saw subscription services as a reliable, convenient and safe way to stay stocked up on goods they were buying regularly.

Subscription e-commerce grew by a whopping 41% during 2020 to $23 billion, according to a report by eMarketer , a research firm.

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A shift in brand loyalty

Due to supply chain issues and shortages that affected many brands and products during the pandemic, consumers who couldn’t find a specific brand were forced to try an alternative.


A global survey by Bazaarvoice found that 39% of shoppers ventured out of shopping for their usual brands, with 83% of them intending to continue to shop for the brands that they recently discovered.

Conscious consumerism

With many stuck at home with closets full of clothes, people started to question quality of what they owned as well as the sustainability of their consumer practices.

A 2020 global survey by management consultancy firm Accenture found that 60% people were making more environmentally-friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic.

And it seems the younger generations are more likely to let social justice issues influence the way they shop.

In a survey by TD Bank, a quarter of millennials said company’s stance on political or social issues affects where they shop, compared to 12% of Gen X and Baby Boomers.

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