Facing A Fear of Shortages: Stocking Up To Hunker Down

New data from Fast shows that 77% of  Americans admit to hoarding essential supplies

By Allison Barr Allen, Co-founder and COO, Fast

When COVID-19 first came on Americans’ radar, media reports of people hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper initially might have seemed like an overreaction, given we had no idea what effect the pandemic would have on daily life. But now, most Americans have had to shelter in place for an extended period (and many still are), and there’s a very real psychological impact of seeing bare shelves and hearing reports of shortages. It’s entirely human to want to take care of ourselves and our families by stocking up and buying more than would seem reasonable in less chaotic times.

In a new nationwide survey commissioned by Fast, we found that 77% of people say they have hoarded essential items by buying more than they typically would since the start of COVID-19. Here’s what Americans told us they were stocking up on in large quantities: 

  • 50% toilet paper
  • 45% disinfectant wipes and other cleaning supplies
  • 44% bottled water
  • 44% hand sanitizer
  • 43% paper towels 
  • 37% meat – reflecting the crisis of worker shortages in packing plants
  • 32% rice and pasta
  • 28% medications to last through the pandemic
  • 25% baking supplies


One fact that stood out is that the younger people are, the more concerned they are about running out of things they need. A whopping 87% of people 18-34 said they’ve been stocking up on essential items, compared to 85% of people 35-44, 73% of people 45-54, 68% of people 55-64, and only 67% of people 65+. 

Why are we buying so much and filling our shelves? The answers are driven by worry.

  • 55% of respondents stocking up said that they worry that supply of certain items would run out
  • 50% fear that they wouldn’t have enough to last through the pandemic 
  • 21% are concerned that stores would permanently close
  • 20% worry that they wouldn’t have enough money to buy items in the future 
  • 20% are driven to stock up due to media coverage of the pandemic

While people are stocking up across the country, the highest inclination is in the Northeast (80%), followed by the West and South (77% each) and the Midwest at 73%. There are interesting differences in what people are buying across regions as well: meat is a hotter commodity in the Northeast (42%) than in the South (38%), Midwest (36%) and the West, where 31% said they were stocking up.

As worries brought on by COVID-19 drive people to think differently about their buying habits, including buying large supplies and staying away from physical stores, businesses need to plan for how they can shift their operations to meet these new considerations even after the crisis has passed. Fast is focused on the future of buying and making life better for both buyers and sellers, easing consumer pain points, and helping merchants develop better online shopping experiences for their customers. Visit our sellers page to learn more, and read up on our company and vision in our Newsroom


Fast’s survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll among 2,048 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, concluding on April 30, 2020.