Placer Bytes: Auto Parts + Amazon Fresh

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In this Placer Bytes, we dove into the surge in visits to auto parts chains and looked into the latest data from Amazon Fresh to learn about the future of Amazon’s grocery push.

Auto Parts Visit Peaks

Visits to auto parts chains have been skyrocketing since March, with year-over-two-year visits to every brand analyzed up by double digits for the past seven months. September visits were up by 26.2%, 22.8%, 17.5%, and 12.4% to O’Reilly Auto Parts, Autozone, Napa Auto Parts, and Advance Auto Parts, respectively, when compared to September 2019, to cap off two straight quarters of significant year-over-two-year growth in foot traffic. Considering the extended period where cars sat mainly idle in garages and parking spots seems to have driven a surge in demand for neglected or unwarranted tuneups.

The bulk of the growth in visits seems to have occurred in March and April. Month-over-month foot traffic soared in March, rising by 38.0%, 34.9%, 33.1%, and 36.7% for O’Reilly Auto Parts, Autozone, Napa Auto Parts, and Advance Auto Parts, respectively. And despite the remarkably strong March, month-over-month visits increased again in April by 32.5%, 29.7%, 32.7%, and 31.2%, for O’Reilly Auto Parts, Autozone, Napa Auto Parts, and Advance Auto Parts, respectively.

Since April, month-over-month visit variance has fluctuated, but none of the monthly decreases have been significant enough to cut into the considerable gains of March and April. So while the sector is no longer on a growth spurt, auto parts chains’ strong spring performance seems to have given it a long-term boost.  

Checking In With Amazon Fresh 

It’s been a little over a year since the first Amazon Fresh grocery store opened in Woodland Hills, California in September 2020. And the e-commerce giant’s brick and mortar grocery concept is growing quickly, with new locations opening up across the country. As of late October, the brand listed on its website nineteen different Amazon Fresh locations, and foot traffic has been increasing accordingly. 

Diving Into Early Amazon Fresh Locations

But to get a better sense of how Amazon Fresh was doing a year in, we dove into eight locations that all opened on or before February 2021. The Woodland Hills, Irvine, Northridge, and Naperville locations all opened in late 2020, the Whittier and LA locations opened in January 2021, and the Fullerton and Oak Lawn locations opened in February 2021.

A baseline change analysis of visits shows that monthly foot traffic has more or less stabilized at most of these venues. The relative steadiness in visits shows that a core group of customers have added a trip to Amazon Fresh to their regular grocery routine, indicating that Amazon Fresh has successfully integrated into the grocery mix for the neighborhoods it entered. 

Who are Amazon Fresh’s Competitors?

Cross-shopping patterns for a brand show how many of the brand’s customers shop elsewhere as well. We focussed on grocery cross-pattern shopping to understand where Amazon Fresh fit into the larger grocery landscape. We looked at early Amazon Fresh locations that opened late 2020 to understand how customers have incorporated Amazon Fresh into their grocery shopping routines almost one year in, focussing on cross-shopping during the month of September 2021. 

It appears that some customers shop at both Amazon Fresh and at higher end grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s or Amazon-owned Whole Foods. But it also seems like Amazon Fresh’s biggest competitors are bigger, low-priced grocery stores, be it Ralphs in California or Jewel-Osco in Illinois. 

And this speaks to the unique potential Amazon Fresh has to be the core of Amazon’s future grocery push. While the Whole Foods acquisition drove major headlines, it appears that Amazon’s grocery evolution will center more largely around a value oriented push with Amazon Fresh. This would play directly into Amazon’s wider strength in distribution and convenience oriented efficiency as opposed to a higher end approach that would emphasize quality and a different type of in-store experience.

Will the auto parts sector maintain its strength? Will Amazon Fresh continue penetrating consumers’ grocery routines? 

Visit Placer.ai to find out.  

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