Shoppers Worry About Rising Prices as Their Finances Fall

Shoppers Worry About Rising Prices as Their Finances Fall

45% of Americans say the cost of groceries has increased in recent months
Grocery checkout

Financial worries are gripping consumers amid the pandemic, with climbing grocery prices adding to the problem.

A global survey conducted by market research firm Dunnhumby showed the number of U.S. consumers who see their personal finances as “not so good” or “poor” jumped 20 percentage points from an earlier poll in July, to 49% in late August and early September.

A sizable part of the problem may be the 44% of Americans reporting that they are spending more on food, creating budget shortfalls and prompting higher levels of concern than what the survey found in other countries.

U.S. consumers focused on grocery costs

The act of buying groceries has been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing people to do more of their shopping online. But an even bigger problem than convenience may be cost, especially in the U.S., where 45% of respondents said grocery prices were rising, compared with 41% overall in the 22 countries covered by the survey.


  • 58% of Americans “shop where prices are low,” compared with 51% globally.
  • 43% of Americans choose products with the lowest prices, versus 41% of shoppers around the world.

Meanwhile, just 22% of Americans are willing to “pay more for quality,” compared with 28% of all shoppers globally.

Rising grocery prices may be more of an issue in the U.S., where even before the pandemic consumers tended to be more price-conscious than their peers elsewhere. For example, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak…

  • 38% of Americans said they would stock up when items were on sale, versus 35% of overall global shoppers.
  • 32% of Americans reported buying the low-priced brand, compared with 26% of shoppers worldwide.

Shopping behaviors shifting again

As consumers continue to adjust to life in a pandemic, there are signs that some are going back to earlier behaviors.

While the early days of the pandemic saw consumers minimizing their contact with others, the Dunnhumby survey found that the number of weekly shopping trips has increased globally to an average of 5.4 in September, up from 3.8 trips in March.

Shoppers are also noticing the changes retailers have made due to the pandemic. For example:

  • 64% have reported tape and stickers to mark social distancing when they shop
  • 49% said stores are being cleaned more often
  • 44% have seen more disinfectant wipes available

Much of this seems to be popular with shoppers. For example, 90% of respondents said the more stringent cleaning regimens of stores are necessary.

But at the same time, 37% have noticed price hikes specifically on virus-related items, and only 28% said they believe it’s necessary for retailers to charge more for such products.

Methodology: Dunnhumby surveyed more than 32,000 consumers from 22 countries in five waves of polling that took place between March and September 2020. The most recent survey took place between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, 2020.