In this Placer Bytes, we break down Tractor Supply’s surge, Chipotle’s post-shutdown status, and the potential of some of Bloomin’ Brands’ top assets.
Tractor Supply’s Rise
Tractor Supply did not kick off 2020 with the strongest start, but the company’s pandemic and recovery performance have been especially impressive. Even with the difficulties created by the COVID pandemic, the brand has seen four out of six months in 2020 with year-over-year visit growth including massive jumps of 31.6% and 19.9% in May and June, respectively.
The company’s geographic distribution certainly helps, but it could be its well-oriented product line that is giving it the greatest boost. Outdoor furniture, pet supplies, and materials for DIY projects feel like a menu of items that are still in demand in spite of the current situation. And this is helping sustain a peak season that normally runs from February through May deeper into the summer. Yet, visits do appear to be returning to more normal levels. The weeks of June 22nd and 29th were up 17.3% and 14.2%, the lowest weekly year-over-year growth numbers since the start of May respectively, though the latter was limited by the July 4th holiday. But even this ‘decline’ needs to be seen within the wider context of the brand’s huge surge.
Can Chipotle Sustain Its Turnaround?
Chipotle was riding an impressive turnaround into 2020, and the push was going strong with monthly visits up 14.5% and 25.1% year over year in January and February respectively. Yet, like so many others, the pandemic hit hard with visits dropping as much as 72.5% year over year in April. But, the recovery is proceeding at a strong pace. By June 2020, visits had improved to the point that they were down just 37.8% year over year, a massive leap even when compared to May visits that were down 56.3%.
And critically, Chipotle visits are continuing to improve each week. The week of June 29th – one that included a July 4th holiday that saw daily Chipotle visits down 71.1% – still saw an overall improvement to weekly visits bringing the total to within 30% of 2019 numbers. Should the brand continue this pace, a return to “normalcy” could be in store already this summer. Critically, Chipotle has also leveraged delivery and takeaway as mechanisms to limit the pandemic’s impact in the short term – something that has helped other brands as well.
Bloomin’ Brands – Sit-down Casualties?
Looking at two of Bloomin’ Brands’ top assets – Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s – the trend seems very similar to Chipotle. A pandemic related drop and a rebound that looks to be carrying into the summer. Both brands saw visits bottom out at nearly 90% down year over year, while seeing returns to just 40.7% and 39.8% down in June for Outback and Carrabba’s respectively.
Yet, the weekly data presents a very different picture from Chipotle calling out some of the unique challenges a chain oriented towards sit-down could face in the coming months. Visits had returned to within 30% of 2019 visit numbers by the week of June 15th. Yet, the resurgence of cases in key states drove a backlash that saw visits drop to 38.8% and 41.1% year over year for Outback and Carrabba’s respectively the week of June 29th. While this was also related to July 4th, the trend had already begun the week before. Though both brands have utilized delivery and takeaway as options, it is clear how important sitdown traffic is for creating a full recovery.
Can Tractor Supply sustain its strength deeper into the summer? Will Chipotle’s turnaround continue? How will the pandemic’s resurgence impact Bloomin’s recovery?
Visit Placer.ai to find out.