Concerns abound about both the Fast Casual industry and the wider retail space, yet many brands are clearly bucking the trend. Few though are doing so with the same gusto as Chipotle in the food space and Walmart and Target in retail.
We dove into their Q3 performance to get a better sense of their respective trajectories.
Big Growth in the Retail Apocalypse
Walmart (WMT) is the dominant force in offline retail with visit numbers that are significantly higher than competitors. But, if there is such a company that can pose a threat to this hold, Target (TGT) is one of the few brands that possess the reach and focus necessary to challenge.
We analyzed both brands Q3 visit performance to see how they stacked up.
Target’s Q3 (July-September) was incredibly strong, with two major jumps in July and August, before a decline in September that reflected a more general and industry-wide visit decrease. July 2019 traffic was 10.9% above the baseline for the period, before rocketing to 25.2% above in August and then finally falling to 11.2% below in September. The July and August numbers were significantly higher than the 2.7% and 9.5% increases seen in July and August of 2018 or the -0.9% and 5.3% numbers from those same months in 2017. We noticed the trend early in the Back-to-School season, and the numbers continued to impress throughout the summer. And even the September drop was less significant than for other brands, giving further validation to many of the key decisions and innovations that Target has rolled out.
Walmart’s situation was very similar, with the major difference coming in there fiscal calendar positioning the most recent quarter as the period from August through October. As with Target, July and August numbers were 10.9% and 13.7% above the baseline, marking huge jumps over the same months in 2018 that produced visits 5.4% and 3.4% above the baseline respectively. Here too, the numbers were also dramatically higher than in 2017 as well. Yet, Walmart’s quarterly will include September and October which were weaker than years past. September was 7.8% below the baseline for the period and October was 5.6% below. These do reflect wider trends from recent years that see decreases during these months, and it is likely that the decline was exacerbated by the unique strength of the 2019 Back-to-School period.
And this leads to a critical takeaway and a critical question for both. On the positive side, the Back-to-School period in 2019 proved a boon for Walmart and Target in driving visits to stores, demonstrating the continued success and appeal of these brands to their target audiences. Yet, it also places an emphasis on the coming holiday season. With the declines in September and October, November and December take on added importance in their potential to buoy or limit what has otherwise been a very strong year.
Chipotle’s Bucks the Fast Casual Trend
Coming off of a strong start to the year, Chipotle (CMG) saw an equally strong summer. The brand enjoyed Q3 visit growth each month Year-over-Year, with July and August coming in at 11.8% and 11.6% above the baseline for the period from January 2018 through September 2019. This is well above the 1.5% and 1.9% numbers from 2018. Even the annual September dip - 5.6% below the baseline in 2019 - was above the 2018 mark of -8.2%.
Analyzing estimated visitor numbers on a weekly basis further cements the point, also highlighting how critical Q3 was for the brand, as it represents the strongest period of the year. Chipotle’s rebound seems to be in full effect, a critical success in a period of struggling Fast Causal brands.
What makes both cases interesting is that they go against a negative narrative around their wider sectors. Fast Casual restaurants and mainstream retailers are supposed to be struggling, yet these brands aren’t - they’re thriving.
How? Dig deeper into the data at Placer.ai to find out.