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New numbers show spike in shopping prior to social distancing

Last Updated Apr 8, 2020 at 7:37 pm MST

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – A sudden spike in shopping in the days leading up to strict social distancing measures has led to a 38 per cent increase in purchasing over the last year.

Numbers from Statistics Canada show Canadians are buying items like toilet paper and flour in the days leading up to the social distancing measures.

Sylvain Charlebois, Director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab (AAL) at Dalhousie University says with more and more people staying home and cooking their own food, redirecting the $90 billion food industry to grocery stores isn’t that easy.

“Four weeks ago, the change was actually quite violent for everyone,” said Charlebois.

“And, of course, that consumer that went to the grocery stores is no longer the same consumer. Instead of looking for quick fixes and finished food products, that consumer is looking for ingredients so he or she can cook at home.”

That has led to flour shortages. The product is big, bulky and expensive to store, so supply could not keep up when demand shot up more than 175 per cent.

“They don’t want to commit too much to this new reality because, at some point, we’re going to get back out again and indulge and enjoy restaurants and, guess what? That flour is going to rot on shelves.”

Toilet paper is up 241 per cent, pasta and rice more than 200 per cent each, and hand sanitizer sales are up an incredible 639 per cent.

Charlebois says that’s what happens when consumers aren’t entirely sure what’s going to happen.

“Two weeks ahead of time seems like an eternity. You’ll probably buy things you think you’ll need in two weeks but in actuality won’t need for six months or a year.”