Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

Supermarkets: The COVID-19 Update

Tali Rozenman
March 30, 2020
Supermarkets: The COVID-19 Update

The supermarket industry is one of the few continuously bringing in traffic as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. Analyzing the second week of March, grocers saw significant peaks, with Friday the 13th marking one of the highest traffic days in years. 

Was this a panic-driven spike, or are supermarkets sustaining growth deeper into the month of March? We dove into the latest data to find out. 

Returning to Normal Levels

Looking at year-over-year growth in weekly visits from the beginning of March reveals some very interesting trends. While we saw traffic rise significantly from late February through the second week of March, none of the seven chains analyzed saw visits in the third week of March match the peak of a week prior. Most still saw significant year-over-year growth, but the levels were far closer to normal, with that pace quickening.

While Albertsons, Kroger, Publix and Safeway all maintained double-digit growth in the same week a year prior, Whole Foods, Wegmans and Trader Joe saw losses. And Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s were hit hard with losses of 30.0% and 31.9% in visits year-over-year respectively.

There are a multitude of factors that could be driving these declines, but chief among them is likely the distribution of locations in major cities. The impact on large cities has been massive. Travel is dropping dramatically, universities, many of whom sit within major cities, are emptying out, and these areas are also among the hardest hit by the coronavirus itself. Additionally, Trader Joe’s is impacted by a wider perception of not being ‘full grocery’ but having a more niche appeal. As mentioned in earlier research, huge numbers of Trader Joe’s visitors will visit another grocery on the same day. 

Wegman’s is likely also being affected by its regional setup with nearly all of its locations in the northeast with heavy concentrations in NY. Additionally, though the wide range of products do position this brand with an audience more likely to stock up for longer terms. 

The Unsustainable Peak

But even looking at the top-performing brands there are signs of a more normal shopping pattern. Albertsons, one of the brands seeing especially strong performance of late, saw Friday visits drop from a March 13th peak of 135.9% above the daily baseline, to visits the next Friday that were just 13.4% above. Assuredly, this is still impressive, but a far cry from the initial rush.

The same can be said for Publix who watched visits on Saturday the 14th rise 59.6% above the baseline only to see visits fall to 26.7% below the next Saturday.

This likely points to a reality where visits will return to a more expected level. The big remaining questions are whether those levels will remain above or below the normal visit ranges.

True Trade Area Takeaways 

But one of the most interesting insights has come from looking at the impact of coronavirus on visitation patterns. Analyzing the True Trade Area, a breakdown of where visitors to a specific location are coming from, can break down critical changes in customer behavior. For example, looking at a Publix in South Florida, there was a massive reduction in the overall True Trade Area size comparing the first two weeks of March to the first two weeks of February. The actual size decreased by 13.9% and the addressable population declined by over 17.0%. Yet, even with these difficult changes, the location saw visit growth of 15.4%. 

However, this trend was not applicable across the country. Grocers in some areas saw massive jumps in True Trade Area size while others saw declines. And this could have a huge impact on strategy. Larger than normal trade areas could indicate new markets for these groceries to target upon a return to normalcy, while smaller trade areas could help brands distinguish between local audiences and regulars who stop by on their way to work. The process could even help brands sharpen their delivery strategies by recognizing their core home audiences.

Will Grocery Visits Stabilize?

Only time will tell. But considering the shifts already seen, it is likely that new and impactful changes are on the way.

Check back in next week at the blog for the Supermarkets update. 

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
How Will Primark’s US Expansion Impact Target?
All Eyes on Eyewear
Northwestern U.S. Grocery Dive
Return of the Lunch: Salad Chains Are Thriving
Retail Media Networks – Off the Beaten Track
Bet Your Bottom Dollar: Discount and Dollar Stores Drive Foot Traffic
Ulta & Lululemon: Discretionary Spending On The Up
The Score After Q1: Sporting Goods Chains
Who Uses NYC Airports: Biting Into The Big Apple’s Main Transport Hubs
Off Price: Strength in The Face of Retail Challenges
Visits Improve for Home Improvement
Walmart, Target & Wholesalers in Q1 2023 – The Return of Mission-Driven Shopping?
Department Store Roundup: Q1 2023 Office Index: April 2023 Recap Mall Index, April 2023 – A Rebound on the Horizon?
How Will Bed Bath & Beyond’s Bankruptcy Impact the Retail Space?
Buffet Restaurants: Filling Up on Foot Traffic
Thrift Stores: Vintage Visits Drive New Age in Apparel
The Windy City: A Hub of Post-Pandemic Opportunity
Diving into Dining Traffic - Q1 2023
Bring On The Joe
A Dollar (or more) For Your Thoughts: Five Below and pOpshelf
Dining Out With The Cheesecake Factory
Retail Foot Traffic Recap – March 2023
Digging Into 2023: McDonald’s and Chipotle Update Office Index: March 2023 Recap
How Did Key Retail Categories Perform in Q1 2023?
Northeastern USA Grocery Dive
Movie Theaters Storylines for 2023
Ollie's Bargain Outlet: Discounters are Evolving
Leveraging Brick-and-Mortar Retail in 2023
America’s Evolving Work Patterns: A Deep-Dive into New York and Chicago Mall Index March 2023
Tuning Into Record Stores
Five Franchises To Watch in 2023
What’s Next For Domestic Tourism?
It’s Showtime! Movie Theaters in the Spotlight
5 Limited Time Offers (LTOs) Driving Restaurant Traffic
Department Store Deep-Dive: Belk
Regional Grocery Chains Staying Ahead of the Competition
Five Chains that Rightsized for Success
Unlocking the Potential of Offline Retail Media Networks
Dining Out With Darden
What’s in Store for Self-Storage?
Nike & lululemon Update: Strong Performance Amid Expansion Plans
Many Ways to Win: Midwest Grocery Deep Dive
Retail, Reinvented: The Rise of the Pop-Up Shop
Navigating a New Normal in Business Travel & Commutes Office Index: February 2023 Recap
Retail Categories Staying Strong in Volatile Environment
Ulta Beauty: Poised for Success into 2023 Mall Index February 2023: Reasons for Continued Optimism
Catching Up With DICK’s & Hibbett
The Miami-Dade Arena: An Advertising Slam Dunk
Car Washes Revving Up Visits
Tuesday Morning and Sunrises in Home Furnishing
Dining & Valentine’s Day Recap
2023: The Year of the Discount Store
Aldi’s Success Highlights Growing Demand for Value Groceries
5 Retail & Service Categories Holding onto Pandemic Gains in 2023
Visitor Insights from Super Bowl 2023
2023 First Look: Home Improvement Update
How Are Target, Walmart, and Wholesale Clubs Faring in 2023?
Department Store Deep-Dive: Nordstrom
Off-Price: Taking Off in Uncertain Times
Checking in On Middle-Class Hubs
Who Attends the Super Bowl? Office Index: January 2023 Recap
Focusing On Fitness: Q4 and January Recap Mall Index: January 2023 – Returning Mall Normalcy?
Location Intelligence Insights Into Concert Attendance
Winning Dining Strategies for 2023
In-N-Out Burger: What to Expect as the Brand Moves East
Location Intelligence Breakdown: Coffee Caps-Off 2022
Digitally Native Brands Lean Into Brick & Mortar
Washington, D.C. Population Changes & Migration Trends
A Location Intelligence Perspective on Macy’s Rightsizing
Amazon-Powered Shopping: The Future of Brick-and-Mortar Grocery?
Cold Weather, Hot Visits: Diving into Winter Resorts
Wawa and 7-Eleven: Leaning Into the “Slurpee Effect”
2022 and Beyond: Catching Up With McDonald’s & Chipotle
Let’s Have Some Fun! Going Out Is In’s Q4 2022 Quarterly Index Adds Industry Executives to Leadership Team To Drive Company's Next Phase of Growth
5 Emerging Retail Formats: 2023’s Brick-and-Mortar Evolution
Grocery Update: Zooming in on the Lone Star State
2022 Office Recap: The Year of the TGIF Work Week
What Lies Ahead for Brick-and-Mortar Luxury in 2023 Mall Indexes: December 2022 Recap
Looking Back on 2022’s Holiday Shopping Season
Post-Pandemic Migration Trends in New York
Top Retailers for 2023
The Live Sports Advertising Opportunity
Domestic Migration to the Mountain States: Small Shifts with Big Implications
New Year, New Food: 5 Dining Trends For 2023
This is Why Shop-in-Shops Are Everywhere
Super Saturday 2022 Recap
The San Francisco Shift
Grocery Year-End Update: Publix in the Spotlight