Panic buying is prevalent in America today due to the coronavirus from China spreading globally. Shoppers are stockpiling essential goods, including bathroom tissue, canned foods, bottled water and hand sanitizer. This phenomenon could translate to an opportunity in grocery store stocks.Three stocks in the grocery store space are poised for exceptional gains during the coronavirus crisis. The criteria to watch include strong earnings and/or sales, a fair valuation as well as a decent dividend payout. Plus, the stores need to be big enough to carry the supplies that today's panicky shoppers demand. * 10 Stocks to Invest In for a Post-Coronavirus Whipsaw With all of that in mind, let's dive into key grocery store stocks to buy now.InvestorPlace – Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips Grocery Store Stocks to Buy: Kroger (KR)Source: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com Shares of Kroger (NYSE:KR) stock are bucking the downward trend of the equities market. That's mainly due to a demand for stores that can handle large inventories of essential items. Kroger fits the bill perfectly. Yet, the valuation remains reasonable as the trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio is only 17.76.A forward dividend yield of nearly 2% should provide shareholders with steady income throughout the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, Bahl & Gaynor portfolio manager Jim Russell observes Kroger's firm position amid a quickly shifting economic landscape. "Kroger is seen as one of the few companies and industries out there that is seeing growing demand … They're strong operationally and demand is strong at a time when demand is falling off in many other industries," says Russell.His point is well taken as Kroger remains powerfully positioned to capitalize on the stockpiling trend. KR stock isn't the biggest store chain of the three on this list, but it could be the strongest contender due to the company's ability to stock shelves consistently, while continuing to enrich loyal shareholders. Costco (COST)Source: Helen89 / Shutterstock.com The share price of Costco (NASDAQ:COST) stock has been a bit wobblier than that of KR stock. The forward dividend payout of 0.85% is decent but not spectacular. Yet, COST stock has something unique behind it. The company's membership model has facilitated strong customer loyalty. A re-subscription rate of nearly 90% confirms this.Plus, the company has demonstrated its ability to keep up with intense stockpiling activity. Telsey Advisory Group's Joe Feldman notes, "The US clubs are operating on a regular basis, and working to deal with the recent acceleration in traffic … Costco's strong relationship with vendors is helping to maintain regular deliveries." * 7 Top CEOs Buying Their Beaten-Down Stocks Costco's trailing 12-month P/E ratio isn't terrible at 35.72. Besides, the company's fourth-quarter top-line revenues totaled $39.07 billion, outperforming analyst expectations. This figure also indicates year-over-year growth of 10%. Without a doubt, COST stock has the revenues and the shopper loyalty to flourish in these challenging times. Target (TGT)Source: Robert Gregory Griffeth / Shutterstock.com Would any stockpiling-store investment list be complete with Target (NYSE:TGT) stock? Certainly not. The trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio is outstanding at 15.92, so Target shares are priced for perfection. Meanwhile, a forward dividend yield of 2.55% should keep buy-and-holders satisfied while they ride out the stockpiling craze.Telsey's Joe Feldman assigned Target stock an ambitious price objective of $137. That's a substantial increase over the current share price. He asserts, "Target's strategies are working and should continue to allow the company to gain profitable market share and drive earnings growth."And the earnings growth is certainly there for TGT stock. The company's fourth-quarter earnings per share came in at $1.69. That's a marked improvement over the $1.53 per share posted in the same quarter from the previous year. Furthermore, the quarterly revenues of $23.4 billion were above the consensus analyst forecast. All in all, TGT stock presents a real value proposition among grocery chain large-cap stocks.David Moadel has provided compelling content – and crossed the occasional line – on behalf of Crush the Street, Market Realist, TalkMarkets, Finom Group, Benzinga, and (of course) InvestorPlace.com. He also serves as the chief analyst and market researcher for Portfolio Wealth Global and hosts the popular financial YouTube channel Looking at the Markets. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. More From InvestorPlace * America's Richest ZIP Code Holds Wealth Gap Secret * 10 of the Best Long-Term Stocks to Buy in a Bear Market * 7 "Perfect 10" Healthcare Stocks to Buy Now * Where the FANG Stocks Sit in This Wild Market The post 3 Grocery Store Stocks to Buy as Fear Continues to Permeate appeared first on InvestorPlace.