A B.C. retail consultant expects people to increasingly buy groceries online, eat at home more often, and postpone non-essential shopping now that health officials are encouraging “social distancing” to combat COVID-19.
“I think, right now, everyone is trying to sort out ‘what’s our footing?’ ” said David Ian Gray, of DIG360 Consulting Ltd.
If citizens move to a self-isolation model, more people will stay at home and cook for themselves, which will affect restaurants and bars, Gray said from Vancouver.
Those people will want to stock up, he said.
In terms of getting food and frozen and canned goods, people who regularly shop online will continue to do that, Gray said from Vancouver.
“What’s going to be different is that people who have only dabbled in it or have been kind of reluctant to try it, this might push them into placing their first orders.”
Greater Victoria shoppers are quickly turning to online shopping, which can see them pick up groceries at stores or receive deliveries at home.
Save-On-Foods said in an email that online shopping requests have picked up.
On Friday, its website said, it is experiencing “extremely high web traffic and demand for online shopping at this time.”
Thrifty Foods’ website also said it was seeing a “higher volume of transaction” for online sales.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, expects to see more deliveries to homes of food and of medical products.
B.C. health officials are urging citizens to practice social distancing by taking steps such as avoiding crowds, working at home if possible, and holding outdoor or virtual meetings at work.
Henry said the situation will not last forever, but it could take weeks or even months to resolve.
Gray said if tourist numbers decline that will have ripple effects on shops.
“We certainly are not going to be as enthused to go to the big malls in a self-isolation model.”
Necessary items such as over-the-counter medications and prescriptions will keep pharmacies in demand, he said.
He expects that personal services, such as spas and manicures and pedicures, where people are close to each other will see a drop in business.
Holding back on some expenditures will likely result in a surge of business once the matter is resolved, Gray said.
“If we kind of play it out and it goes a few weeks and then at the end of that, there will be pent-up shopping needs,” he said.
“Then the question becomes: ‘Are retailers stocked in items that people are looking for?’ ”
That’s the next challenge, Gray said.
Most retailers are stocked for spring and the factories in China are starting to get people back to work.
But there was basically a shut-down of factories and distribution centres in China for several weeks as the country dealt with COVID-19.
“That will then have a knock-on effect into our system, where there will be delays in replacement of goods in the supply chain.”
When the supply chain dries up, both online and offline outlets are affected, he said.