Seniors Lead the Way Back to In-Person Grocery Shopping

Smiling senior woman buying vegetables at farmer's market.

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Everyone wants to return to normal after a year of pandemic-related restrictions, but no one wants to get back to squeezing their own tomatoes at the grocery store more than seniors, according to a new study.

People older than 60 have abandoned online grocery shopping at the fastest pace of any age group, according to a study by consulting firm Brick Meets Click, sponsored by Mercatus. In April, monthly active users of online grocery shopping dropped by 25% from the same month a year ago among those older than 60, the survey showed. That is more than double the 12% decline for those aged 18 to 29. The decline was 11% for those between 45 and 60, while people aged 30 to 44 registered only a 3% decrease.

Online grocery shopping soared when the pandemic hit and people, especially seniors who were seen as the most vulnerable to COVID-19, were told to stay home as much as possible to prevent spreading the virus. But now, with older adults leading the vaccination rollout, once-cooped-up seniors are embracing life outside again.

Vaccinations have given them the freedom to move about without fear, and grocery stores will likely fill up again soon. 

“It's one way to feel as though things are finally returning to the old normal,” said Holly Pavlika, SVP Corporate Marketing at Inmar Intelligence, in an email. “Ecommerce is great, but people like to explore the store and discover new items, as well as pick out their vegetables and fruits. Your local supermarket is a place you go to every week, run into neighbors, even get to know some of the staff over time.”

Online grocers needn’t worry, though. Even with the drop in online grocery shopping by seniors, the industry remains strong, with the rest of the population carrying it. Monthly sales for online groceries rose to $8.4 billion in April from $7.2 billion a year ago, according to the survey by Brick Meets Click. It surveyed 1,941 adults 18 years and older between April 26 and 28.