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Pent-Up Demand Ahead of October Sales Events

Shira Petrack
September 28, 2023
Pent-Up Demand Ahead of October Sales Events

As consumers continue hunting for bargains, we dove into recent retail foot traffic data to see how Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Amazon may perform during their upcoming October sales events.

Retail Foot Traffic Continues to Lag 2022 Levels 

The current retail landscape seems to present little reason for optimism of a short term turnaround. With prices continuing to rise, many consumers are thinking twice before hitting the shops. Weekly visits to major retail chains nationwide has consistently remained below 2022 levels, and several leading analysts have forecast a lackluster holiday season. 

But diving deeper into the weekly foot traffic numbers also indicates how even minor pushes are driving consumers back to stores despite the wider challenges. Foot traffic to major retailers nationwide increased 3.3% year-over-year (YoY) during the week of Mother’s Day (May 8th to 14th) – suggesting that people are still willing to shell out for presents and boding well for the lingering potential of the upcoming holiday season. 

Nationwide retail visits also got a boost in June and July, when the economic outlook brightened temporarily – indicating that there could be a pent-up demand for retail therapy, and that consumers are waiting for the slightest excuse to return to stores. 

Consumers Holding Off on Big-Ticket Items 

Further analyzing the retail visit data also reveals that not all sectors are equally impacted by the current headwinds. While superstores’ YoY visit trends follow the overall retail foot traffic trends relatively closely, retail segments that tend to sell larger-ticket items – including home furnishings chains and electronics stores – are lagging behind. 

The relatively large YoY visit gaps in these sectors could mean that many consumers are holding off on making larger purchases until the wider economic situation stabilizes – or until these big-ticket items go on sale. So the underperformance of the electronics and home furnishing categories may mean that these segments will perform particularly well during the upcoming October promotional events – Amazon’s Prime Day, Best Buy’s 48-Hour Flash Sale, Target’s Circle Week, and Walmart Deals – Holiday Kickoff

What Can Recent Foot Traffic Trends Tell Us About Upcoming Promotional Events?

Best Buy, like the wider electronics sector, is lagging behind the superstore category – but the chain has also demonstrated its ability to drive visits during key retail holidays, with visits up relative to 2022 the week following Father’s Day. And although Best Buy’s YoY visit gap has grown in recent weeks, the dip could also mean that some consumers are patiently waiting for October’s sales events to score deals on pricey products. 

Meanwhile, Target and Walmart have also seen their YoY visit gap widen recently, as retail visits slowed more than usual during the off-season between Back to School and holiday shopping. But both brands also saw a YoY boost in visits during the brief window of renewed consumer confidence in June and July, which suggests that shoppers have not abandoned these brands. Instead, increasingly picky shoppers may be waiting for the best deals – and the upcoming October sales events may be just the thing to unleash consumers’ pent-up demand and drive shoppers back to brick-and-mortar venues.

As retailers brace for a potentially difficult Q4 – and with holiday shopping starting earlier and earlier – retail performance over the upcoming October promotional events will be critical to evaluating the state of consumers ahead of a key holiday season. Will the pent-up demand of the past year drive visit spikes? Or will consumers stay cautious as the wider economic situation remains uncertain? 

Check in with to find out. 

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