Placer Bytes: Walmart and Target

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In this Placer Bytes, we dive into the recoveries of two offline retail titans – Walmart and Target.

The (Obvious) Rise

In the biggest shock of the retail year (note the heavy sarcasm) both Walmart and Target are recovering well. Looking at year-over-year numbers in March and April shows Target visits skyrocketing to gains of 21.7% and 49.5% respectively in the two months. Walmart went from significant year-over-year declines to a March visit gap of just 0.4% and visit growth of 21.7% in April. And while the year-over-year metrics do have real relevance in the case of these two essential retailers, the comparison with a ‘normal’ 2019 drives equal optimism.

Target saw year-over-year growth in three out of the four first months of 2021 when compared to 2019 with March and April visits up an impressive 8.0% and 2.5% respectively. And even the one month with a minor 1.3% decline, February. is better explained by inclement weather than any drop in strength. Walmart too saw strong results with the year-over-year visits gap within single digits throughout the start of the year.

Behavior Proof Retail

But what makes this recovery all the more impressive is that it is happening as behavior normalizes, Essentially, Walmart and Target are so strong that they excel regardless of the situation or wider consumer behavior shifts.

Early in the pandemic, both brands benefitted from the rise in ‘mission-driven shopping’, a trend that pushed shoppers to spend more time in fewer locations. The result was an increased visit duration that drove larger basket sizes and privileged the type of one-stop-shop experience that Walmart and Target were built to satisfy. Yet, as visit duration declined back to normal, the two brands are simply seeing the behavior shift with visitors making more, albeit shorter, visits to compensate.

This idea is further reinforced by the times shoppers are choosing to visit. Visits in the afternoon are declining as evening visits rise, with the return of routines pushing more consumers to make their stops after work or school. 

And this resilience is very impressive as it shows just that the pull for these brands is so strong, it can survive under difficult or changing circumstances.

Big Growth Expected 

There is also a real reason to believe that this is just the beginning of a very strong year for both. While visits are improving nationwide, in some key states like Florida, California and Texas they are lagging behind the national benchmark. This is very significant for these brands as both have a large and significant footprint in these states.

As the recoveries continue to progress across the country, the return could spark exceptionally strong growth. Even better, the re-openings should come in just ahead of the back-to-school season, a period that has historically been very kind to both retailers.


Can Walmart and Target maintain their unique recovery strength? Visit Placer.ai to find out.

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