This article was updated on 27/03/2020.

Using our nationwide network of Shepherds, we’ve revealed new research that gives a live view on current supermarket stock availability a result of coronavirus panic buying. The data, which includes geographical and retailer splits, was collected by our network across 682 stores in the UK between 14th March 2020 – 20th March 2020. 

Read our feature in The Grocer.

Since news of the coronavirus reaching the UK, people have been flocking to supermarkets to stockpile products in preparation for more social distancing measures which are predicted to become more restrictive over the coming weeks. We recently launched a new research project on the topic to provide some greater clarity on exactly what products are the lowest in stock, which geographies are most affected, plus which of the major supermarkets are implementing more protective health measures.

Busy supermarket lines from one of our reports

Relying on checks from our network of Shepherds who use our app to collect data, we were able to provide a clear view into exactly what items people are buying and where from. Each individual Shepper report includes images and insights into the state of the stores: stock levels of frequently panic-bought items, additional shortages, staff presence, extra health and safety measures and more.

The panic buying research

The findings reveal that 80.72% of supermarkets do not have any extra (visible) measures to protect against the Coronavirus and that only 2.19% have hand sanitiser available for use in-store.

Jan Vanhouttte, Shepper co-founder responded to this finding:

“Our role at Shepper is to help provide clarity for retailers in a time where they need it the most. In this turbulent time, we’re aiming to provide real-time information to help supermarkets respond to issues quickly and make sure their customers feel safe. With these findings, it’s clear that supermarkets would benefit from adding more measures to protect customer’s health.”

Our network also focused their efforts on reporting which specific products were out of stock, finding that:

The top three items with the lowest level of stock in supermarkets are toilet roll, pasta and hand sanitiser

UK supermarkets on average have only 2% of hand sanitiser, 3% of toilet paper and 5% of pasta available in stock.

Paracetamol and UHT (long life) milk are also critically low in stock in many stores

Supermarkets have only 9% of paracetamol and 10% of UHT (long life) milk in stock.

Bleach, rice, tinned food and frozen food stocks are also decreasing rapidly 

Bleach is at 24% stock availability, rice is at 27%, tinned food is at 33% and frozen food is at 47%.

We also found that:

Supermarkets in the North East of the UK have the most stock (21% availability) compared to those in London who have the least stock (15% availability).

Aldi has the most stock availability (21%), whereas Morrisons (15%) has the least.

UK supermarket stock availability by retailer

14th-22nd March14th-17th March18th-22nd March
Grand Total18%20%16%

Jan commented further:

“So far the reports of panic-buying have mostly come from social media, which doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the real situation being largely anecdotal. Social media will often just show the extremes, creating anxiety around stock levels and making the problem worse. With our data, which is live, quantitative and accurate, is a great answer to this – helping retailers spot and address theirs and their competitors pressure points efficiently.”

Shepper is now working on collecting additional data to find out how the coronavirus panic buying situation progresses in the next few weeks.