Special Report

19 Ways Coronavirus Has Changed What Americans Buy

1. Milk
> Change in sales: 47.5% increase
> Period: YoY, final week of March
> What it means: 3 more glasses of milk weekly per capita

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consume 146 pounds of milk per capita annually, or about 275 cups of milk per year, or about five cups of milk per week. If sustained, the recent surge in demand for milk would mean Americans have increased their consumption of milk to about eight cups per week.

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2. McDonald’s
> Change in sales: 13.4% decline
> Period: YoY, March
> What it means: 6 fewer hamburgers per fast-food fan annually

In a given year, Americans consume an estimated 1 billion pounds of beef from McDonalds — the equivalent of 4 billion quarter-pounder hamburgers. Spread across the 91.4 million American adults who eat fast-food on a daily basis, this comes out to about 44 quarter-pounder sandwiches per year.

McDonald’s reported a 13.4% decline in sales at American restaurants in March 2020 compared to March 2019. Applied to the amount of beef McDonald’s dishes out annually, this is equivalent to about 6 fewer quarter pounder hamburgers per fast-food fan annually.

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3. Walmart
> Change in sales: 20% increase
> Period: YoY, March
> What it means: 2.6 more visits to Walmart per American annually

An estimated 140 million Americans shop at Walmart every week. According to one estimate, Wal Mart gets 4.4 billion visits per year — or about 13 visits per American every year. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Walmart sales surged by 20% year over year in March as Americans stocked up on household items, groceries, and appliances — items in these categories are also on this list. The surge, applied to per capita annual visits, means Americans will shop at Walmart 15.6 times per year on average.

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4. Video games
> Change in sales: 65% increase
> Period: YoY, mid-March
> What it means: 5 new video games purchased per gamer

As the vast majority of Americans are confined to their homes in an effort to contain the coronavirus, video game sales have soared. Consumer spending on video games jumped 65% in mid-March from the same period last year. The U.S. video game industry generates over $40 billion per year, which, assuming an average cost of about $30 per game, comes to 1.3 billion titles sold, or roughly 8 for each of the over 164 million adults in the United States who play video games.

If video game title sales increased proportionally to the money spent on games, the higher spending would translate to roughly five new games purchased per year per gamer.

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5. Gasoline
> Change in sales: 30% decline
> Period: YoY, last week in March
> What it means: 10 fewer trips to the pump each year

There were nearly 227.6 million licensed drivers in the United States in 2018, and they drove a total of over 3.2 trillion miles that year, or about 14,200 miles per driver. Assuming a fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon and a 15 gallon gas tank, that amounts to approximately 31 trips to the pump per driver per year.

As the country shut down in an effort to contain the coronavirus, demand for gasoline tanked by 30% year over year in the week ending on March 27. At an annualized rate, this translates to about 4,300 fewer vehicle miles traveled per driver, or roughly 10 fewer trips to the pump.

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