Survey: Households on hard times buy more store brands

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Brick Meets Click took a closer look at who’s buying private label during the record levels of online grocery shopping that the consultancy has been monitoring and found shoppers of all ages and income levels are buying more store brands.

However, the shopper survey conducted by Brick Meets Click and Mercatus Grocery did find that approximately 50 million U.S. households (39%), experienced dramatic income losses of 25% or more due to the pandemic, and the increase in private label purchases by those households was greater compared to the average increase for all households. 

Shoppers facing financial losses are in a “belt-tightening” phase, the researchers said, and they expect the households to continue to buy more store brands, shift total grocery shopping to dollar stores and hard discounters, switch to store pickup to save money over delivery, and buy more in bulk.

The Barrington, Ill.-based group has reported three straight months of e-commerce grocery sales growth. For May, online grocery sales reached $6.6 billion, up 24% from April’s $5.3 billion, for example.

Diving deeper into the survey and shopping habits for that month, Brick Meets Click said households have been shifting toward larger package sizes, as part of stock-up shopping, and buying more private brands to get “more value for their money.”

The study said of the 96% of U.S. customers who buy private label, 22% said they bought more store brands in May 2020 compared to before the pandemic began.

Additionally, all age groups were buying more private label in May when compared to levels recorded in January/February, per the survey from Brick Meets Click and Mercatus Grocery. More than 20% of households surveyed in each of the demographics looked at reported buying more private brands compared to buying less.

However, Brick Meets Click finds the youngest households (ages 18 to 29) showed the largest increase, suggesting it could trigger a long-term trend of the group buying more store brands. The group also showed the largest decrease in buying more store brands, suggesting they’ve been hit more financially by the pandemic.

Looking at income groups, households across economic levels reported buying more store brands and all at about the same levels. For more on the study, visit this BMC blog post.

Brick Meets Click was founded by Bill Bishop, a long-time thought leader in retail, who was just named one of the newest inductees into the Private Label Hall of Fame by the Private Label Manufacturers Association.