How Difficult is it for Americans to Find Desired Items in Stores?

How Difficult is it for Americans to Find Desired Items in Stores?

By Saleel Huprikar | Data Science Intern

COVID-19 has sent global and domestic supply chains scrambling. As states across the United States began implementing shelter-in-place ordinances in March and April, many Americans also began having difficulties finding essential goods. It is likely that 2020 will go down as a year where toilet paper and hand sanitizer were some of the hottest commodities. Many shoppers have had to stand in lengthy lines to secure entrance into stores and have found many of their shopping list items, like spaghetti, flour and yeast, to be out of stock.

As states begin to “reopen”, we at Premise were wondering if Americans are still having difficulty finding food and other desired goods. As part of a longitudinal study about COVID-19’s impact on daily life in the U.S., we have been asking respondents, “How difficult was it for you to find your desired food and other items?” In order to obtain a better understanding of this issue, we decided to analyze the level of difficulty in three different regions: the West Coast, the Southeast and the Northeast.

Here are some of the findings from the data: 

The West Coast 

The combined trend in California, Oregon and Washington, for the most part, is trending down. Over time, it seems from the data that people on the West Coast are finding it less and less difficult to find the items they want.

Number of total submissions: 3,070

The Southeast

What we are seeing in the data from Alabama, Georgia and Florida (states that have begun to “reopen”) is that the trend is very volatile. The plot below shows that there have been periods when the 5-day simple moving average was above 50% and below 50%.

Number of total submissions: 3,155

The Northeast

The Northeast trend fluctuates, but it seems to have less variability than the trends we are seeing in the South and the West Coast. The 5-day simple moving average percentage never falls below 50% in the time period studied, as indicated in the plot above.

For the purposes of this examination, the Northeast region examined consisted of the following states: the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Number of total submissions: 2,740

Restrictions have been lifted across the country at varying rates, with southern states largely being opened the West Coast is still largely sheltering in place. As local governments release more guidelines for how they will return to normal operations it will be interesting to see how it impacts the data coming from the Northeast, the Southeast and the West Coast.

Are you interested in seeing more of the data Premise has collected and analyzed around the impact of COVID-19? Visit

About Saleel Huprikar

Saleel Huprikar is a Data Scientist intern, who joined Premise Data in February of this year. He recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Economics, Mathematics and Statistics. Saleel is very passionate about the intersection of statistics and social sciences; he recently published a research paper in the Berkeley Economic Review that analyzes how state-level and local-level economic conditions (e.g. cost of living) affect people’s attitudes towards a federal minimum wage increase using a statistical regression framework. At Premise, Saleel has been involved in developing and implementing statistical methodologies in order to help Premise understand the data that it has collected and establish an analytical strategy for future data collection.