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    Quarantine Q&A: 1,500 Parents Surveyed about Shopping for Kids

    Strange times.

    For businesses. For shoppers. For employees.

    And, oh yes, parents. Of course parents.

    Almost overnight, the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine has forced many parents to become, or at least polish up their skills as, amateur teachers, camp counselors, nutritionists, coaches, nurses, and more. 


    The pandemic, and its unique impact on households with kids, got us at Endcaps & Insights wondering about a few questions:

    • How has the outbreak changed the way parents shop for their children?
    • What are parents buying for their kids more and less frequently since the pandemic began?
    • What are kids’ favorite quarantine snacks, toys, and craft supplies?

    Let’s get some fast answers.

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    Parent Survey: Shopping for Kids During a Pandemic


    April 28-29, 2020, with the U.S. coronavirus outbreak still raging, Endcaps & Insights turned to the Field Agent on-demand platform to survey 1,525 parents* of kids younger than 18 about their kid-centered shopping and purchase behavior. Our primary aim, as you’ll see, was to understand how the pandemic has changed the shopping/purchase routines of parents across the country.

    *All survey respondents were U.S. adults at least 18 years of age and Field Agent app-users. The survey was executed exclusively through the Field Agent platform, April 28-29, 2020. To make the sample more representative of the general population, Field Agent weighted data to more accurately reflect the racial composition of the general U.S. population. Individual respondents completed the survey on behalf of their entire household.

    Demos: Respondent Gender - Female (74%), Male (26%), Respondent Age - 18-34 (27%), 35-44 (47%), 45-54 (21%), 55+ (4%); Respondent Race - Caucasian (63%), Latino/Hispanic (17%), African American (14%), Other (6%). Respondent marital status/number of kids -  married with 1 child (18%), married with 2-3 children (43%), married with 4+ children (9%), single parent with 1 child (12%), single parent with 2-3 children (13%), single parent with 4+ children (3%). Households with children of the following ages: younger than 2-years-old (22%), ages 2-5 (38%), ages 6-9 (35%), ages 10-13 (36%), ages 14-17 (34%): Household Income - < $35K (19%), $35-49K (18%), $50-74K (24%), $75-99K (17%), $100K+ (22%),


    Endcaps & Insights also took the opportunity to conduct a separate photo survey with 100 parents. As the picture collages suggest, we asked parents to snap photos of their kids’ favorite quarantine snacks, toys, and even craft supplies.

    So, if it applies, distract your kids with a candy bar (or apple, if you insist), take a short recess from all the commotion, and ponder the answers to a 9-question QuickFire Q&A.


    QuickFire Q&A: Parents, Pandemics, & Purchases for the Kids


    1. Has the pandemic changed the way parents shop for their kids?


    We asked 1,525 parents of kids younger than 18, "Has the way you shop for your children changed in any way since the U.S. coronavirus outbreak?"

    In all, 7-in-10 (72%) parents answered yes. 

    As one parent said, "I didn't realize all the changes I made until I thought about it."


    2. But in what specific ways has COVID-19 changed the way parents shop for kids?


    We really opened up this question.

    If a parent answered yes to the previous query (n = 1,076), we followed up with a free form question asking them to describe up to five specific ways the outbreak has changed how they shop for their children. We then analyzed thousands of qualitative responses to identify prominent themes among their answers.

    Here are 12 common ways, mentioned by parents, that the pandemic has altered shopping for kids:

    • Shopping online more frequently (for the kids)
    • The kids stay home when mom or dad go shopping
    • Fewer store trips to shop for kids
    • Shopping for and purchasing "healthier" meals and snacks
    • More grocery pickup/delivery to buy groceries for the kids
    • Not buying food for packed lunches
    • Stocking up on food more (no more school lunches or breakfasts)
    • Buying more toys, crafts, entertainment, and "treats"
    • Spending less money on the kids in general
    • Buying less in the way of clothes and shoes specifically
    • Planning ahead and being more disciplined when shopping for kids
    • Making more purchases for cooking kids' meals at home


    You'll notice above that some parents say they're buying more toys, and other distractions, for their kids these days. Hard to work sometimes, isn't it mom or dad?

    But what are kids playing with through the quarantine?

    We asked 100 parents to take a picture of the one toy their child is playing with the most right now. Here's a selection of the photos received. 


    Coronavirus Shopping for Kids Quarantine Toys Agent Photo Gallery


    3. But will these changes stick around even after the pandemic?


    This really is the question right now. We know COVID-19 has drastically changed the way shoppers—parents and non-parents—shop for, well, practically everything.

    But has the pandemic permanently changed shopping behavior?

    Some of this will have to be wait-and-see. The best we can do right now is ask the shoppers themselves whether they expect the changes to continue beyond the outbreak. 


    To parents who cited even one change above (n = 1,076) we posed the followup question, "What is the likelihood at least one change you mentioned on the previous screen will continue even after the pandemic?"

    In all, 39% of parents answered "completely likely" or "very likely," while 23% responded "not very likely" or "not at all likely."


    4. Are parents spending more or less on their kids since the pandemic?


    As you can see in the chart below, exactly half of parents (50%) in the full sample of 1,525 said they're spending more on their kids in recent weeks, compared to 28% who are spending less. 


    Coronavirus Shopping for Kids Spending Chart


    5. Which specific, pandemic-era categories are receiving sales bumps from parents shopping for their kids? And which aren't?


    So if many parents are spending more on their kids right now, what exactly are they spending more on? We offered parents, all 1,525 of them, a list of 17 categories ranging from groceries to toys to furniture.

    Then we asked, "In which of these specific areas are you spending more on your children since the U.S. coronavirus outbreak?" We also attempted to understand which categories they're spending less on.

    The table below shows the categories receiving a net bump and a net dump as parents increase or decrease their spending on kids during the outbreak. As you can readily see, groceries (+64%) is the biggest winner, while attire/wearable accessories (-32%) is, in this context, the biggest loser.


    Coronavirus Shopping for Kids Spending Categories Table


    It's interesting to note the performance of art/craft/creative supplies above. In all, 36% of parents surveyed said they're spending more on such supplies amid the outbreak, compared to 7% who said less.

    It seems many parents are also wearing the amateur artist "hat" these days.  

    So with this survey as an indication, art/craft/creative supplies may be in a stronger position, at present, than even toys and electronics.

    So what art/craft/creative supplies are children using during the pandemic?

    We asked 100 parents to take a photo of their kids' favorite or most-used art/craft/creative item since the start of the outbreak.


    Coronavirus Shopping for Kids Quarantine Craft Supplies Agent Photo Gallery


    6. Which specific grocery categories are faring best during the pandemic?


    We asked parents spending more on groceries for their kids (n = 1,046) to identify the specific grocery categories receiving more of their money since the U.S. coronavirus outbreak began. Parents were asked to choose from a selection of 18 food/beverage categories. 

    According to parents, among the choices provided, the following five categories are receiving the lion's share of the increase in grocery spending:

    • Fresh fruits/veggies - 68% said they're spending more on this category for their kids since the outbreak
    • Milk - 67%
    • Cereal - 61%
    • Bread - 57%
    • Eggs - 55%

    Other results include: Meat (fresh or frozen; 54%), juice (53%), cheese (49%), baking items (48%), yogurt (44%), granola/protein/snack bars (44%), salty chips (43%), packaged baked goods (43%), fruit snacks (40%), frozen meals (34%), soda (22%), chocolate (18%), non-chocolate candy (17%).


    See Also - The COVID Diet: How the Pandemic is Impacting Eating, Drinking Habits


    In the photo survey, we asked parents to take photos of their child's favorite quarantine snack. Uniquely, of 100 photos received, 11 were specifically of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, the most of any branded snack

    Coronavirus Shopping for Kids Quarantine Snacks Agent Photo Gallery


    7. Are parents using OGP more or less since the outbreak?


    Since the start of the pandemic, we've heard many parents, in particular, say they're using online grocery pickup (OGP) to a greater degree. Of course, others we've talked with, parents and non-parents, say they've scaled back their OGP usage due to the dearth of pickup times as well as the critically high out-of-stock rates.

    In our survey, 38% of parents said they're using OGP more since the outbreak, taking advantage, it seems, of the greater convenience of shopping online at a time when parents are discouraged from taking their kids into stores. Conversely, 8% of parents said they're using the service less.

    All in all, OGP is winning with parents during the outbreak.


    8. And are parents making more or fewer online purchases in general for their kids these days?


    Forty-two percent of parents in our survey said they're making more online purchases for their kids since the outbreak, compared to 7% making fewer.

    So kid-related online purchases are booming, too.


    9. Are parents making more or fewer unplanned purchases for their children?


    So much of retail relies on unplanned, impulse purchases. So with the increase in online purchases, and with the adverse economic impact of the outbreak, are parents making more or fewer unplanned purchases for their kids?

    Our survey suggests it's more of a wash.

    Thirty-two percent of respondents said they're making more unplanned purchases for their kid, but 25% said they're making fewer. 

    So it's a tale of two households.


    Wrapping Up: In Summary


    Clearly, the pandemic has forced many parents—more than 7-of-10 in our survey—to change the way they shop for their kids. Some of these changes are pretty obvious: not taking kids into stores. Other changes are perhaps less obvious: planning ahead and being more disciplined when shopping for kids.

    Altogether, a greater number of parents report spending more on their kids (50%) through the outbreak than report spending less (27%). According to parents, the pandemic and subsequent quarantine have so far spurred a sales boost to categories like entertainment, hygiene, and especially essential and meal-prep groceries, while perhaps depressing kid-related sales in clothes and furniture.

    We've also witnessed a rise in online purchases and OGP among parents shopping for their kids. Moreover, at a time when some parents are upping the unplanned purchases for their kids, others are scaling back.

    All in all, the pandemic has clearly worked a real number on parents and how they shop for kids. And, as seen, 4-in-10 parents surveyed say at least some of these changes are completely or very likely to stick around following the outbreak.

    Yet, so much remains to be seen.

    At Endcaps & Insights, we'll continue to publish content on the retail developments and research questions that matter to you: a professional trying to navigate the choppy waters of the current retail environment. 

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