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Slurpees and Summer Movies Stimulate Consumer Foot Traffic

Shira Petrack
July 28, 2023
Slurpees and Summer Movies Stimulate Consumer Foot Traffic

With summer 2023 in full swing, we checked in on 7-Eleven’s Slurpee Day performance and movie theater foot traffic to see how consumers are responding to fun and leisure-focused offerings. 

Slurpee Day’s Strong Spike

7-Eleven held its first annual National Free Slurpee Day in 2002, and fans of the frozen drink have been coming to the chain for their annual free treat ever since. This year was no exception, with Free Slurpee Day (July 11th) bringing a 128.7% increase in daily visits to the chain’s venues nationwide relative to the June 1st to July 10th 2023 daily average. 

Free Slurpee Day also brought a significant bump to the company’s year-over-year (YoY) weekly visitation trends. Between May 15th and July 9th, the weekly YoY visit increases ranged from 1.8% to 8.3% – but the week of July 10th -16th 2023 brought a massive 19.2% visit increase relative to the week of July 11th -17th 2022 (which also included Free Slurpee Day). 

Strongest Performance in Recent Years

Analyzing Free Slurpee Day visit data from the past six years provides even more context to understand the success of this year’s event. Prior to COVID, Slurpee Day visits held relatively steady, with July, 11th 2019 up by just 0.5% relative to July 11th, 2018. But foot traffic fell sharply over the pandemic, and Slurpee Day 2020 and 2021 visits were down by almost 50% compared to Slurpee Day 2018. And while visits increased in 2022 relative to the 2020/2021 nadir, July 11th, 2022 foot traffic was still 18.6% below 2018 levels. 

Only this year did the 7-Eleven branded holiday fully recover from the pandemic’s impact, with visits on July 11th, 2023 12.8% higher than they were on Free Slurpee Day 2018. This performance may highlight the lingering impact of the pandemic in 2022 and early 2023 – even among strong brands with growing visits. 

Barbie and Oppenheimer Bring Viewers Back to Theaters

Sipping slurpees is one way to cool off on a hot summer day – but sitting in the AC watching the latest summer blockbuster can also do the trick. And this past weekend brought two major motion pictures to cinemas nationwide and drove impressive visit spikes across major movie theater chains. Barbie grossed $155 million in North America ticket sales during its opening weekend, making it the biggest opening weekend of 2023 so far. And Oppenheimer also performed well, nearly doubling its early box office projections.

The movies’ box office success is reflected in movie theater visit numbers. AMC Theatres, Regal Cinema, and Cinemark saw a significant YoY visit increase the week of Barbie and Oppenheimer’s release. The increase exceeded the YoY growth generated by the releases of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and The Super Mario Bros. Movie (released during the week of May 15th) and that generated by Spiderman: Across the Spider Verse and The Little Mermaid, released the week of May 29th.

The success of Barbie and Oppenheimer may be partially driven by wider trends in the space. Looking at foot traffic trends over the past weeks also suggests that – aside from a couple major spikes and dips – movie theater visits remained more or less on par with 2022 numbers, which suggests that foot traffic is beginning to stabilize. Consumers appear hungry for collective experiential entertainment, as is most clearly displayed by the astonishing success of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. Watching the Barbie movie in a theater full of strangers dressed in Barbiecore is not the same as watching it on one’s couch – no matter how large the home screen. And the success of the movie – along with the visitation patterns of the past couple of months – indicate that a movie theater comeback may not be so far off. 

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