Supersized Impact? Supermarkets Analysis

From empty airports to emptying shelves, the economic impact of the coronavirus is undeniable. Yet, we learned that even amid a widespread decline, certain players could potentially thrive.  

Supermarkets especially have been at the forefront of news and consumer concerns. How have these retailers been holding up amid virus panic? Are traffic patterns similar to those of wholesale grocers, with surges in visits, or are people avoiding leaving their homes and resorting to delivery? We dove into the latest data surrounding the pandemic. 

Some More Super Than Others

When looking at six top supermarket chains nationwide, we see mixed results. Comparing the year-over-year change for the last week of February and the first week of March, three of the chains – Kroger, Wegmans, and Albertsons – had a strong start to March after a weaker end to February. This could certainly be a result of increasing concerns, and a more immediately perceived need to stock up on products. But, Publix, Whole Foods and Safeway all experienced a bigger year over year decrease. Publix saw the biggest dips, with 5.3% year-over-year decrease in February visits, and a 6.2% decrease in March. Wegmans had a very weak last week of February, with a 6.7% year-over-year decrease, but made a significant recovery in the first week of March. 

And possible explanations abound. The regional splits of these brands could have played a role, as well as direct competition from large wholesale players and the leading big-box retailers with integrated grocery like Target and Walmart,  both of whom saw major spikes in late February and early March.

Second Week Spikes

But the situation didn’t remain down. Instead, things get really interesting when looking at the Sunday through Friday of the second week of March. All chains saw an enormous year-over-year jump, with Kroger and Albertsons leading the way with 36% and 40% year-over-year growth respectively. 

For Kroger, Friday the 13th brought a 78% baseline growth when looking at the period from January 2018 to March 2020, marking it the highest growth day in the entire period from January 1st, 2018 through March 13th, 2020.

Albertson’s March 13th, 2020 also easily surpassed all other days in that period, including the holidays, with 132.9% growth over baseline. 

As more stringent measures are being put in place, there is a chance that this traffic could be impacted, but with supermarkets remaining one of the few local retailers to stay open, the grocery boon could potentially remain.


Though highly impressive, it is not guaranteed that this growth will be sustained. With a lockdown looming, grocery chains could see a dip in or flattening of traffic as people will become less likely to leave their homes. That being said, this momentum could play a role in making this uncertain time easier to get through, giving grocery chains a bit of a boost before a more difficult period. 

The strongest players will find ways to conduct business and continue building on customer loyalty, with timely restocking and home delivery options. Who will they be? Only time and data will tell. Visit for continued coronavirus coverage. 

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