With reference to the latest situation report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Europe is now the epicentre of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. It is common knowledge that these epidemics cause a diverse range of social effects. One of its severe effects is the disruption of daily life in order to the reduction of spread rate. While the European countries claim that they have the situation under control, yet words are not enough to mitigate the fear-based psychological effects on society. The major scene that leads to such anxiety happens when people see empty shelves in groceries. This is a well-known phenomenon by the experts and is called Panic Buy, and the origin of this misbehaviour is the extra and somehow unnecessary fear that spreads in a region or country because of the outbreak news. We call it somehow unnecessary because everyone knows if the outbreak lasts for an enough-longer time, it may lead to a real shortage of items that are needed to survive.

To summarize the problem: 1- In the short term, while the supply of the food and other items is adequate, yet its sudden happening and unpredictable behaviours by the society make stress for people and problem for the stores; it is called panic shopping and is a major problem especially in high population countries like UK and Italy. 2- In the long term, as many businesses are struggling to produce, distribute, and deliver the foods and other items, the real shortage may happen. By considering that this outbreak is going to stay for one to two years, this is an important problem to solve.

While grocery stores analyze their data regularly, based on the information we collected, they cannot predict the shortages in advance; If they could those empty shelves won’t happen and we won’t see people fighting for a box of toilet paper! There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is that they have regulations that are designed for normal situations and in these large enterprises changing the focus and implementing innovations are very hard. Just a quick search shows that Italy, Spain, Germany, and UK governments are calling for calmness in the society right now do to panic shopping.


In this attempt, we propose a research project that could mitigate the social effects of Coronavirus in terms of preventing panic buy in a short time and probable shortage of items in grocery stores in a long run by using advanced data analysis and machine learning techniques. Based on an article published in New York Times on March 16, 2020, public health officials believe that coronavirus vaccine will not be ready for widespread public use for at least a year to 18 months taking us well into 2021. We believe initiating and conducting this project could benefit the society both from short- and long- term standpoints.

In the first step, we gather, prepare, and analyze the data of the purchased items in one major grocery. This data should include all daily purchases from the beginning of the year until the current date. By this advanced analysis, we aim to investigate the trends for all items, understand the customers’ purchase patterns, and distinguish the items’ shortages duo to panic buy as well as very importantly their quantities. In addition, we link these studies to the outbreak rate of COVID-19 based on the database of the number of confirmed cases in the country and the number of deaths daily. After considerable understanding the historical data, we can train machine learning models in order to predict the types and quantities of the shortages in the future, based on the disease spread rate. Next, with the support of the experts of the field, we can interpret and test the outcomes of the analysis to be sure the project is in the correct direction. Based on the results, we can provide recommendations to the grocery store on which items they should store in advance and in which quantity, in order to prevent the customer from panic, buy. In the next steps, we extend the work to other grocery stores and the whole connected network. We connect outbreak data, inventory data, data analysts and scientists, decision-makers, and generate data-driven actions. That is a value that grocery stores cannot do that alone.