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Placer 100 Index for Retail & Dining: Introduction and May 2024 Recap

by 
Addison Southerland
 on 
June 17, 2024
Placer 100 Index for Retail & Dining: Introduction and May 2024 Recap

About the Placer 100 Index for Retail & Dining: The Placer 100 Index for Retail & Dining is a curated, dynamic list of leading chains that often serve as prime tenants for shopping centers and malls. The index includes chains from various industries, such as superstores, grocery, dollar stores, dining, apparel, and more. Among the notable chains featured are Walmart, Target, Costco, Kroger, Ulta Beauty, The Home Depot, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Crunch Fitness, and Trader Joe's. The goal of the list is to provide insight into the wider trends impacting the retail, dining, and shopping center segments.

Key Takeaways

  • Over the past year, leading chains nationwide – represented by the Placer 100 Index for Retail & Dining – experienced consistently positive year-over-year (YoY) visit growth, except in January 2024, when frosty weather kept consumers home. 
  • On a regional level, the Index performed well throughout the United States, with May 2024 YoY visits up 5.4% in the Midwest, 5.2% in the South, 4.9% in the West, and 4.8% in the Northeast.
  • Value was the name of the game in May 2024 – with budget-oriented chains dominating the YoY visit rankings. Discount retailers like Aldi, Dollar General, and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet featured prominently among the top performing brands, as did Crunch Fitness and dining chains offering special cost-saving promotions.
  • Chili’s Grill & Bar, riding the wave of its viral Burger Smasher promotion, emerged as May 2024’s top YoY foot traffic performer, on both a chain-wide and per-location basis.

Retail and Dining are Heating Up in Time for Summer

Foot traffic patterns at leading chains can serve as an interesting proxy for consumer sentiment – offering a glimpse into the overall health of the retail and dining spaces. And analyzing the YoY foot traffic performance of the Placer 100 Index for Retail & Dining over the past twelve months reveals that, for the most part, major retail and dining players have enjoyed consistently strong visit growth. In November and December 2023 – during the height of last year’s holiday shopping season – foot traffic to the chains included in the Index increased 2.9% and 3.7% respectively, compared to the equivalent period of 2022. 

And although 2024 opened with a slight, weather-driven YoY decline in visits, retail and dining foot traffic quickly bounced back, finishing out May with a 5.1% increase. This springtime jump was partly due to two special calendar days – Mother’s Day weekend, and Memorial Day weekend – both of which drove bigger visit spikes this year than in 2023. 

These robust visitation patterns highlight consumer resilience in the face of headwinds – and may be an encouraging indicator of a thriving summer ahead.

Mapping Out May’s Performance: Cross-Regional Gains

Zooming into the Index’s regional performance during May 2024 uncovers impressive positive YoY visit growth across the nation. 

The Midwest led the way, buoyed by strong YoY foot traffic growth in South Dakota (6.7%), Michigan (6.4%), and North Dakota (6.4%).  But the two states with the biggest YoY visit boosts – Vermont (7.4%) and New Hampshire (7.0%) – were in the Northeast, and the South and West performed well too. This impressive increase in retail and dining visits was observed across the vast majority of the continental U.S., regardless of population size and local weather conditions. Such widespread growth indicates a robust and uniform recovery in consumer activity nationwide, suggesting that factors beyond regional characteristics, such as slowing inflation and increased consumer confidence, played a significant role in driving this trend.

Who were May’s Top Retail and Dining Performers?

Drilling down into the rankings of individual chains in the index can highlight some of the key trends shaping retail and dining this year.

Value-oriented retailers – including Aldi, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, and Dollar General, – featured prominently among May’s top performers, both for YoY chain-wide visits and for YoY average visits per location. This robust showing demonstrates the continued draw of budget fare, which has been observed across a wide range of segments – from grocery to apparel

The quest for savings spilled over into other segments as well. Value gym Crunch Fitness, which grew its footprint significantly over the past year, ranked among the  top performers both for overall visits and for visits per location – showcasing the success of its expansion strategy. And casual dining chains Chili’s Grill & Bar and Buffalo Wild Wings also made the list, with YoY visit growth likely driven by successful value promotions.  

And This Month’s Placer 100 Winner is (Drum Roll Please): ...Chili’s Grill & Bar!

Indeed, Chili's Grill & Bar – propelled by its hit Big Smasher Burger promotion – has emerged as this month's leading chain, topping the charts both for overall visits (26.3%) and for average visits per location (26.1%). 

Hungry, budget-conscious diners can get Chili’s Big Smasher as part of the chain’s signature 3 for Me deal, which lets diners choose a beverage, starter, and main course starting at $10.99. And the offering, which was launched on April 29th, 2024, has become a sensation – going viral on TikTok and garnering significant media attention. 

The promotion is competitively priced against QSR offerings, at a time when fast-food chains have seen slowing sales due to cutbacks by inflation-wary consumers. Chili's has been praised for delivering exceptional value – and taking a closer look at weekly visitation trends shows that this strategy is paying off. Chili’s saw a surge of weekly visit growth beginning the week of the promotion (April 29th), and has continued thriving since. This highlights the importance of understanding consumer needs and finding ways to deliver value.

Looking Ahead

Will June continue to see a rise in retail and dining visits as summer approaches? Will the success of retail and dining foot traffic remain evenly spread across regions, even as some areas are more affected by summer heat? And will value-oriented retailers continue to dominate the ten top performers in retail and dining?

Visit Placer.ai to find out. 

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