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Eclipse Fever: How Did the (Retail and Hospitality) Stars Align?

by 
Lila Margalit and Noam Maman
 on 
April 15, 2024
Eclipse Fever: How Did the (Retail and Hospitality) Stars Align?

During last week’s solar eclipse, people from all over the country converged on cities within the path of totality to witness the excitement first hand. And for municipalities and local businesses, the influx of tourists was expected to generate a boon.

But just how did the celestial event impact business activity on the ground? Which sectors benefited from the hype – and which geographic areas saw the biggest visit spikes? 

We dove into the data to find out.

Key Takeaways

  • Hotels in CBSAs located along or near the path of totality experienced significant visits increases on the day of the solar eclipse – with Danville, IL taking the lead among metropolitan areas. 
  • Fast Food & QSR chains in and around the path of totality also saw meaningful visit boosts. 
  • Brands nationwide, including Warby Parker, SONIC Drive In, and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts drove visit increases with special deals and limited-time offers. 

Lodging in the Path of Totality

On April 8th, 2024, hotels in CBSAs where the eclipse could be viewed in all its glory (or close to it) experienced major visit boosts. And mapping hotel visits on the big day to CBSAs nationwide – compared to year-to-date daily averages – shows just how significant the cosmic alignment was for areas lucky enough to be located along or near the path of totality.

Within metropolitan CBSAs (CBSAs with at least 50,000 residents), Danville, IL – where visitors could either view a near-total eclipse or drive to a nearby location with 100% totality – experienced the biggest jump in Hotel visits, with visits to the category up 111.3%. But urban centers from north to south – including in New York, Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, and Missouri – also experienced substantial hotel visit spikes. 

Solar-Powered Fast Food

Hotels weren’t the only locations to reap the rewards of the solar eclipse. Fast Food & QSR chains in and around the path of totality enjoyed meaningful April 8th visit spikes of their own. And while the Hotel visit increases were more closely concentrated in prime viewing areas, Fast Food & QSR visits increased along a wider radius as people likely grabbed a bite to eat while making their way to a sun-gazing hotspot.

Out-of-This-World Visit Increases

And the impact of the solar eclipse wasn’t limited to locations located in or near the path of totality. Retailers and dining chains nationwide got in on the action with special deals and limited-time offers meant to make the most of the unique interstellar opportunity. 

In the week leading up to April 8th, 2024, Warby Parker drew crowds with the promise of free solar eclipse glasses. And while a burger joint may not be the first place people associate with eyewear, fast food favorite SONIC Drive In also attracted astronomy aficionados with a limited-time Blackout Slush Float that came with free eclipse viewing gear

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, for its part, marked the occasion with a limited-edition Total Solar Eclipse Doughnut. And though Mondays aren’t typically busy days for the chain, the special offering produced a clear visit uptick nationwide. In states along the path of totality, Krispy Kreme visits were up 55.5% on April 8th when compared to an average Monday this year, and in the rest of the country they were up 33.9%. 

Astronomical Opportunities Ahead

For retailers across categories, landmark events from movie launches to cosmic occurrences have the potential to drive visit spikes and generate business. What other big opportunities lie in store for retailers this year?

Follow Placer.ai’s data-driven retail analyses to find out. 

This blog includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection.

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