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The coronavirus pandemic has caused toilet paper shortages and long lines, but panic buying is not a new phenomenon and it certainly isn’t helping. USA TODAY
Curbside pickup used to be a popular perk. Now it’s a public health necessity.
As the nation continues to grapple with the deadly coronavirus and social distancing guidelines extended through April 30, a growing number of retailers are using the same technology that has helped with crowd control during holiday shopping to limit potential exposure to COVID-19 for consumers and employees.
Buy-online-pickup-in-store orders, which includes curbside, jumped 87% year over year between late February and March 29, according to data from Adobe Analytics.
“As the public became more informed on COVID-19, we saw a rush to stock up on essentials,” Vivek Pandya, a lead analyst for Adobe, told USA TODAY. “But, increased awareness of social distancing meant that consumers grew weary of spending too much time inside physical stores.”
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Yet many shoppers trying to order essentials online like toilet paper or hand sanitizer quickly found “out of stock” messages or canceled orders – a side effect of panic shopping.
Just as stores have not been prepared for the daily influx of shoppers waiting outside for hours before opening, online systems weren’t designed for so many people to order at the same time, said David Marcotte, senior vice president of cross-border retail for Kantar Consulting.
“This is not working very well at the moment,” Marcotte said. “A lot of people are trying to do curbside and discovering they have to go into the store to do their normal shopping anyway.”
Kendall Meza, of Clute, Texas, said she used pickup service at her local Kroger and was surprised to find spots booked. When she got a spot, she said she only got two-thirds of her order, which was fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Everything is out online,” Meza said, adding she tried Walmart and Target too. “There’s no use in trying really. It’s all out of stock.”
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<img data-src="https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2020/03/31/USAT/389f1c34-64b7-4e9c-988f-e06133b4e4f4-24698.jpg?crop=3000,2000,x0,y0&width=520&height=390&fit=bounds&auto=webp" alt="Martia Weaver waits for customers at the walk up window to her Freitas Cuban burgers restaurant as the city government takes steps to fight the coronavirus outbreak on March 25, 2020 in Key West, Fla. Most tourists have left Key West as the city closed hotels or short-term vacation rentals and asked restaurants to only serve take-out. Beaches and parks have been closed and starting Friday non-residents…