The UK’s stockpiling lockdown preparations

Who stockpiled for the lockdown and how much was spent?

Since January, when the coronavirus outbreak began, the number of cases of COVID-19 around the world and in the UK has been rising, causing some people to panic. The national lockdown was announced on Monday 23 March 2020.

In preparation for the possibility of self-isolation (if they or members of their household caught COVID-19), many Brits began stockpiling. We’ve done some research to find out how many Brits stockpiled, how much they spent, which items they bought (such as face masks) and which were the hardest to get their hands on.

Quick overview

  • 60% of Brits admitted to stockpiling or panic buying to prepare for the UK going into lockdown.
  • On average, Brits spent £57.09 each while stockpiling. This brings the total spend across the UK to £1.8 billion.
  • The most-bought items were canned goods. Three-fifths (59%) of stockpilers bought these products.
  • Hand sanitiser was the item that was hardest to find, with almost two in five stockpilers (38%) being unable to purchase it.

Stockpiling in the UK

Three in five Brits (60%) admitted to stockpiling or panic buying to prepare for the UK going into lockdown. This equates to 31.2 million of us. On average, Brits spent £57.09 each, bringing the total amount spent across the country to £1.8 billion.

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The most popular items to stockpile and the items that were hardest to find

There is no doubt that headlines have been right about everyone stockpiling toilet paper. In fact, over half of Brits (56%) admitted to stockpiling toilet paper. Three-fifths (59%) of stockpilers also bought canned goods, making this the most frequently bought item, with crisps (52%) also being a popular buy for stockpilers.

The item that was hardest to find was hand sanitiser. Almost two in five stockpilers (38%) were unable to buy alcohol-based hand gels. Similarly, over a quarter of stockpilers and panic buyers (26%) were unable to get their hands on dry goods such as pasta and rice, making this the second most scarce item. Medical supplies such as paracetamol and thermometers were also in low supply, with 23% of Brits experiencing empty shelves when looking for these items.

Item Bought Sold out
Toilet paper 56.29% 22.05%
Kitchen roll 44.88% 13.98%
Dry food 48.99% 25.78%
Canned food 59.39% 16.93%
UHT milk 29.27% 17.62%
Hand sanitiser 35.64% 37.89%
Cleaning supplies 45.42% 20.57%
Medicine 44.95% 22.83%
Sweets 51.24% 8.54%
Crisps 51.79% 8.93%
Other 44.02% 10.40%

Gender differences

Similar numbers of men and women admitted to stockpiling (59% and 60% respectively), but men spent an average of £69.16, which comes in at £23.38 more than the female average spend of £45.78.

Regional differences

We did a regional analysis to see where shelves were bare and where they were fully stocked. Wales and Scotland came up top, with two-thirds (66%) of the population admitting stockpiling. However, it was Londoners who forked out more than any other region, with an average of £104.95 being spent by those living in the capital.

Stockpiling was the least common in East Anglia, with just over half of the residents here (53%) admitting to bulk buying. Similarly, these residents spent less than any other region, with an average spend of £29.50.

Region Percentage of stockpilers Average amount spent
East of England 53.30% £29.50
East Midlands 62.59% £49.44
London 64.00% £104.95
North East 60.00% £38.65
North West 55.75% £50.90
Northern Ireland 62.50% £46.68
Scotland 65.66% £61.12
South East 58.94% £66.56
South West 55.62% £39.15
Wales 65.98% £69.73
West Midlands 63.22% £49.06
Yorkshire and the Humber 54.03% £45.93

Generational differences

Generation X stockpiled more than the other generation, with over two-thirds (67%) of generation X saying that they stockpiled. Interestingly, millennials spent the most, with the average millennial spending £91.94. The silent generation spent and stockpiled the least. Less than half of this generation (49%) said that they participated in stockpiling and they spent £22.23 on average.

Generation Percentage of stockpilers Average amount spent
Postmillennial/Generation Z (Born after 1996) 59.19% £62.44
Millennials (Born 1981-1996) 62.95% £91.94
Generation X (Born 1965-1980) 67.04% £63.87
Boomers (Born 1946-1964) 52.48% £26.53
Silent (Born 1928-1945) 49.27% £22.23

It’s understandable that consumers were worried during these times of uncertainty. Despite how the shelves may look at your local shop, there is plenty of stock available, but stores are struggling to keep up with the rate at which products are being bought. If at all possible, consumers should avoid stockpiling and only buy what they need, leaving resources for those who are unable to frequently visit the shops.

This has also led to increased food being thrown away and wasted as people are struggling to get through the volume they have bought. To help with this problem, supermarkets are now cracking down and enforcing a limit on the number of specific items that people can buy. Before heading to the shops, it’s worth checking each supermarket’s rules so that you’re prepared.”

Georgia-Rose Johnson, shopping expert at

For all media enquiries, please contact

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806


  • Finder commissioned Onepoll on 26-30 March 2020 to carry out a nationally representative survey of adults aged 18+.
  • A total of 2,000 people were questioned throughout Great Britain, with representative quotas for gender, age and region.

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