As many retail and service categories wait for the economic headwinds to blow over, some segments are already seeing a lift. We dove into the latest foot traffic data for movie theaters, home improvement, and off-price to identify pockets of optimism amidst the wider challenges.
Movie Theaters Continue to Draw Memorial Day Traffic
The end of March and beginning of April saw movie theater visits spike, with John Wick: Chapter 4 (released March 24th) and The Super Mario Bros. Movie (released April 5th) driving traffic to AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas, and Cinemark. And although Memorial Day movie visits did not quite beat last year’s levels, the apparent underperformance may have more to do with the last year’s release than with current circumstances: Box-office hit Top Gun: Maverick hit theaters over Memorial Day weekend 2022, which set an incredibly high bar for Memorial Day 2023.
But even with the comparison to last year’s strong visit numbers, visits the week of May 22nd through 28th, 2023 were only 5.0% and 2.2% lower than visits the week of May 23-29 2022 for AMC Theaters and Cinemark, respectively (Regal Cinemas saw a slightly larger year-over-year (YoY) visit gap.)
Analyzing daily visits over the long weekend also suggests that Memorial Day weekend still has potential to drive visits to movie theaters nationwide. Most weeks tend to exhibit similar daily visitation patterns, with traffic spiking on Saturday, dipping on Sunday, and falling sharply on Monday. But over the week of Memorial Day, visits remained high throughout the long weekend – Sunday visits were almost as strong as Saturday visits, and Monday visits dipped only slightly compared to the usual dramatic drop. This indicates that, despite changes in entertainment consumption over the past couple of years, consumers still see going to the movies as a typical Memorial Day activity.
Home Improvement Traffic Perking Up
Home improvement visits tend to peak in the spring, with traffic in May typically higher than in any other month. And even though this year’s traffic has been a little slower than usual – with many consumers choosing to delay larger purchases and home renovations while interest rates remain high – YoY and week-over-week (WoW) visits indicate that a rebound may be on the horizon.
Between the last full week of April and the last full week of May, the YoY visit gaps for the leading home improvement chains narrowed from 16.8% to 5.9% for Home Depot and from 18.3% to 5.6% for Lowe’s. Week-over-week visits were also mostly positive – which could mean that the sector is perking up – and that this year’s home improvement may be yet to come.
Off-Price Apparel Remains On Track
With some conventional apparel retailers working with leaner inventories following last year’s glut, some analysts speculated that the “off-price party may be over.” But even though the off-price segment is no longer hitting the traffic peaks it hit over the pandemic, YoY weekly visits to leading off-price retailers are still pulling ahead of the wider apparel category.
T.J. Maxx and Marshalls saw YoY growth in traffic during the last three weeks of May, while Burlington visits remained close to 2022 levels – also an impressive feat given the wider retail landscape. And Ross Dress for Less, which saw some moderate YoY visit gaps in the second half of the month, still performed significantly better than the overall apparel category, with Ross’ YoY visits down just 3.1% the week of May 22nd through the 28th, compared to an 8.5% YoY visit gap for the wider category.
Although consumer confidence remains relatively low, the beginning of a rebound may be on the horizon, with movie theaters, off-price retailers, and home improvement stores highlighting the potential of a summer retail comeback.
For more data driven retail insights, visit placer.ai/blog.