REPORT
Mar 27, 2020
What can I do!? The science of seeking control

The spread of COVID-19 has seen people frantically stock their cupboards and freezers, with empty supermarket shelves a common sight worldwide. Canvas8 spoke to Dr. Leonard Lee, a marketing professor at the National University of Singapore, to understand the human needs that fuel panic-buying.

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Scope

Whether it’s for pasta, toilet paper, or cleaning products, shoppers have been dashing to stores to stock up on essentials as they try to prepare for the uncertain impact of COVID-19. In the UK, supermarkets saw year-on-year sales in the 12 weeks to March 2020 grow by the fastest rate since November 2019, while Grofers, an online grocery in India, reported that orders in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, and Ahmedabad had grown by nearly 80% over a matter of weeks in February and March. According to research from Nielsen, the rush to build ‘pandemic pantries’ has caused demand for everything from fresh meat substitutes to children’s medicine to spike by up to 124%. In this extraordinary global environment, wherein supermarket shelves from Milan to Mumbai are emptying, stockpiling has become a new norm. But why do people panic-buy?