Recovery Analysis: C-Stores and Pet Stores

With some states already loosening restrictions, retail is slowly starting to show signs of recovery from COVID-19’s effect. In this Placer Bytes, we dove into the pandemic’s impact on pet stores and C-stores to see who is well-positioned and whether a return to normalcy could be on the horizon.

Pet Stores Amid Pandemic

Pet retailers, like grocers, saw a boost the week of March 9th, when COVID-19-centric restrictions began to appear. Looking at the period from January 2019 to May 2020, Petco had an 8.7% baseline increase in foot traffic while PetSmart showed a 6.7% increase during this week. This is a 6.7% and 1.8% year-over-year increase respectively for Petco and PetSmart, which is quite significant, given the fact that for the most part, these chains have flat traffic, with very few changes. 

But, as with all retailers, a major downward trend followed and extended into April. However, looking at four major pet retailers during the month of April does show some promising signs. The third week of April saw a major improvement when looking at the year-over-year traffic change. And while the last week of April did see a slight dip for all four chains, it still looks as though the worst is over and the sector is on its way to recovery.

When looking at the giant, PetSmart, Saturdays consistently mark weekly peaks. And before the pandemic (January 2019 through February 2020),  22.9% of weekly visits were on Saturdays, with Monday through Thursday visits between 11% and 12%. But from March 1st through May 6th, 2020, this gap slightly decreases. Saturday visits now account for 18.8% of weekly visits, with Monday through Thursday visits between 11.7% and 12.9%, showing a more uniform daily visit distribution than previously. Should PetSmart find a way to continue attracting weekday visitors, it could create a more consistent demand to sustain a strong bounceback.

C-Store Comeback

C-stores also took a tumble at the beginning of April. Looking at five chains shows major drops in the first two weeks of April, with 7-Eleven experiencing a year-over-year decrease of 54.4%, while Wawa dropped to 58.7% in the second week of April. But things are definitely looking up, with traffic taking an upward turn in the second half of the month.  

Of the five chains, Wawa has the highest customer loyalty for the period, with an average of six visits per customer. But it was also the hardest hit, with visits dropping over 50% from the past year during each week of April. Last year’s spring and summer months marked the chain’s strongest period. Though year-over-year visit levels will likely remain low this spring and summer, hopefully, the warming weather can bring with it the seasonal boost Wawa needs to get back to pre-coronavirus levels. 

Looking at the king of convenience, 7-Eleven shows a similar seasonal trend. Both 2018 and 2019 are characterized by a strong spring, summer and early fall. This, again, gives the chain an opportunity to attract seasonal traffic just as economies begin to open back up. 

The Light at the End of the Tunnel? 

With both the pet and convenience store sectors beginning to show signs of a resurgence, we assume that the worst is, at least for now, over. But relying on seasonal and weekly peaks may not be enough to get these chains back to their pre-coronavirus visit levels. 

Who will take the extra steps needed for a strong bounce back? And how will shopper behavior change post-pandemic?

Check back in at the blog to stay posted. 

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