Panic in the Aisles: Getting to the bottom of coronavirus chaos

We’ve all heard the recent reports of shoppers stockpiling household goods in the face of the coronavirus. From toilet rolls to hand sanitser, buyers across Britain are rushing to the supermarkets to snap up essential items ahead of a potential lockdown.

While many are questioning the importance of loo roll in the crisis, other practical items, such as pasta and travel insurance, are also being bought en masse.

On the other hand, shoppers aren’t willing to risk the connection between the virus responsible for COVID-19 (coronavirus) and Corona beer, with the brand reportedly losing £132m in revenue already.

So, which cities across the UK are panic buying so-called essential items and who’s still enjoying their favourite beer?

Cities going crazy over corona

We’ve tracked Google Trends data from the past 30 days to see which cities have experienced the greatest increases in searches for particular terms during the spread of the virus.

Here, you can see which cities came out on top for certain items, including toilet roll, hand sanitiser, pasta, travel insurance and Corona beer:

Google Trends data from 16.02.20-16.03.20

Increases in search data for toilet roll is fairly spread across the UK, although those in Hull seem most concerned about going to the loo during a lockdown. Searches for pasta were also evenly spread, whereas residents of Cambridge are the most likely to make a meal out of stockpiling the Italian staple.

Interest in hand sanitiser was focused around the north, Midlands and South East, with Bradford showing signs of being the most sterile.

Cities down the centre of the country, from Aberdeen to Portsmouth, weren’t put off by the name association of Corona beer, with those in Oxford searching for the beverage more than before.

And it would seem that residents of Norwich had most recently booked a holiday, with searches for travel insurance soaring in the city. Cities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north were also interested.

Events affecting buyer intent

We also wanted to determine how certain events, such as the Government announcing its Action Plan, have influenced people’s interest in these particular items.

Google Trends data from 01.01.20-16.03.20

Using Google Trends data again, we’ve compared how searches have been affected by announcements relating to the spread of the coronavirus.

Although little changed when the virus was first identified, interest in hand sanitiser and toilet roll also remained low when COVID-19 came to the UK.

It was only when the Government revealed measures to try and contain the spread of the virus in early March that search intent changed. Again, following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement of a pandemic, buyers flocked to hoard essential items and rushed to purchase travel insurance.

Sales, stocks and shares

Although the sale of hand sanitiser and pasta may be going through the roof, the general state of the economy isn’t supporting share prices in these sectors.

Click through the different companies to see how they’re performing:

Google share price data from 16.02.20-16.03.20


Cushelle, Andrex, Kleenex – Kimberly-Clark Corporation
Carex – PZ Cussons
Napolina pasta – Princes Group > Mitsubishi
Corona beer – Corona Corporation
British Airways – BA. BAE SYSTEMS PLC
Breathing apparatus – Drägerwerk AG

Meanwhile – and somewhat unsurprisingly – the stock price of German breathing equipment manufacturer Dragerwerk has soared. With more hospitals relying on these vital apparatus for an increasing number of patients, confidence remains strong.

It seems the stockpiling of toilet roll has also positively affected Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which owns Cushelle, Andrex and Kleenex.

It remains unclear of the exact course of action that the UK Government is going to take over the next few days, weeks and months regarding the coronavirus. However, what is clear is that many more people will be staying at home and potentially self-isolating.

Although buyers are being encouraged to stop panic buying, it appears that many are ignoring this advice and stocking up on the items that they feel they’ll need the most.

Have you visited your local supermarket, only to find the shelves empty? Tag us in your photos on Twitter at @OMA_Money using #PanicInTheAisles


Pete Mugleston, the Managing Director of Online Money Advisor, responds to the outbreak: “As a business, we’ve taken steps to ensure the safety of our staff, while maintaining our high levels of customer service and business-as-usual approach.

“We understand that people are concerned and this appears to have led many to panic buy certain items, despite calls from professionals not to do so. We urge everyone to be kind and considerate during these uncertain times, and remind our customers to pick up the phone if they need us.”

He adds: “We’ve also tried to instill our values remotely, and make sure the team still has a sense of togetherness, and yes, some of our video conferencing has resulted in fancy dress – it’s hard to choose a favourite between Indiana Jones and the ketchup bottle.

“I was pretty disgusted by a photo of two guys with trolley loads of nappies piled high – they either have 20 kids or were buying to sell/stockpile – either way, leaving others short. In times of adversity, character is often revealed, and I think people should remember life is better when we tackle things together.”

The team at Online Money Advisor hopes that everyone stays safe and takes care of those most vulnerable to the coronavirus. As an online business, we are able to work from home and keep our staff safe, while remaining available for our customers’ needs.