Placer Bytes: Lessons for a Difficult February & McDonald’s Chicken Sandwich Boost

In this Placer Bytes, we provide critical context for a difficult February and break down the latest beneficiary of the Chicken Sandwich.

Context for a Tough February

February was a tough month for offline retail with a combination of multiple instances of extreme inclement weather throughout the country, continued COVID effects and one fewer day limiting the overall monthly output. This led to weeks in February where several categories hit low points they hadn’t seen since the summer, and in some cases, early June. 

While this is hardly a positive note for the wider offline retail space, once again, an immediate recovery began following the dip. By late February, visits were again back on the rise.

And this context is very important to avoid the potential over exaggeration to a February that was marked by a multitude of unique obstacles. Looking at several top retailers February traffic year over year shows expected declines, yet when making the comparison to February 2019, the drop becomes much less extreme. Instead, even with major weather challenges and a continued pandemic, brands like Target and Walmart see year-over-year declines of 12.7% and 17.9% drop to just 2.1% and 9.7% respectively. In the case of Costco and Dollar General, declines actually turn into growth.

These comparisons are important for providing February context, but will increasingly be used in the coming year to help understand true growth and declines. For example, while Home Depot could see year-over-year declines later in the year because of the uniquely high heights the brand reached in 2020, they will require 2019 context to show that these drops are anything but weaknesses. Conversely, comparing a hard hit apparel brand to 2020 should show nothing but growth, but 2019 numbers will help show true recovery.

The Latest Chicken Sandwich Beneficiary

Chicken War drama was all the buzz in 2019, and while the pandemic may have leveled off excitement, a new player drove a big jump with their own entry. McDonald’s launched its chicken sandwich on Wednesday, February 24th to a big traffic jump to locations. The Wednesday of launch was up 19.1% on the previous Wednesday, while the days that followed were up 29.1%, and 21.5% respectively. Saturday traffic saw a week over week bump of 12.4% and Sunday saw a 13.8% increase. 

And the impact was even felt when looking at year-over-year numbers with the week of the launch seeing visits down 29.4% – the brands best mark for in-store visits since September. This came on the back of an 18.3% week-over-week increase in visits.

The launch was so significant that it fundamentally changed the trajectory for McDonald’s with average daily visitors in February seeing a 12.9% increase when compared to January, and overall monthly visits in February seeing a 2.0% month-over-month increase even though February has less overall days. And all this without taking into account the brands strength in delivery.

Will February’s low be followed by a March jump? Did McDonald’s hit a turning point in their offline recovery? Visit to find out.

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