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Where Is Retail and Dining Foot Traffic Thriving in Early 2024?

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
March 14, 2024
Where Is Retail and Dining Foot Traffic Thriving in Early 2024?

Of all the predictions about what would be the prevailing retail trends in 2024, an uncharacteristic cold snap wasn’t on anyone’s radar. But so far this year, extreme weather has had a major impact on consumer behavior in a host of retail categories. How big an influence have drastic conditions had on foot traffic and what visit patterns are emerging as temperatures thaw? We dove into the latest location analytics to find out.

Off to a Cold Start

A powerful Arctic blast gripped a large portion of the continental U.S. in January 2024. And along with other disastrous consequences, the chill caused many consumers to stay indoors – resulting in a decline in overall retail visits. 

Although retail foot traffic the week of January 8th, 2024 was almost in line with 2023 levels – likely due to a flux of consumers stocking up on essentials – the week of January 15th saw the overall retail visits gap widen to 2.9% year-over-year (YoY) as the storm expanded its grip on the country.  

The worst of the cold abated in late January 2024, and consumers appeared to be out and about again – catching up on errands and making up for time spent cooped up at home. Overall retail visits picked up steam the week of January 22nd, 2024 and sustained positive YoY growth through February. 

Mapping a Retail Storm

Zooming in on retail foot traffic by state revealed the scope of the storm’s impact on visits nationwide. Generally, states that bore the brunt of the cold blast saw the widest YoY retail visits gaps. And although perennial cold weather regions were not spared from the unusual cold spell, consumers in the often frigid Upper Midwest and Northeast may have been more acclimated to the cold and therefore able to maintain somewhat normal shopping routines. 

In January 2024, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Minnesota – along with Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire – all experienced YoY retail visit growth, despite the extreme weather. Meanwhile, foot traffic in much of the Midwest and South buckled under the abnormal conditions.

The resilience of the Upper Midwest and the Northeast was evident again as temperatures thawed. While winter weather was still prevalent in these parts, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and Vermont all cozied up to over 8.0% YoY retail visit growth in February 2024.

Out of the Freezer 

As was the case for retail foot traffic patterns as a whole, the cold snap took a toll on visits to the dining space early on in 2024. The data suggests that many consumers stayed home and cut back on dining out during the extreme storm. But as temperatures more or less normalized, restaurant-goers were eager to get back to their favorite dining hot spots. 

Analysis of weekly foot traffic to the various dining categories in January and February 2024 once again showcased the industry’s resilience and the strength of discretionary spending as a whole.

Heat and Serve

Diving into dining foot traffic on the state level provided further evidence that freezing conditions likely influenced the eating-out behavior of consumers.

Location analytics revealed that as storms raged in January 2024, southern and midwestern states – where consumers may have been caught off guard by the extreme weather – experienced the widest YoY dining visit gaps. Meanwhile, upper midwestern and northeastern states – where consumers are generally accustomed to harsher winters – produced dining traffic growth. 

In February 2024 – as temperatures warmed – several states in the Upper Midwest and Northeast mustered exceptional increases in YoY dining visits. But notably, all of the continental U.S. saw YoY dining traffic growth during that month – further indication of the dining space’s ability to bounce back from adversity and the sustained demand for going out.

Which retail trends will prevail as 2024 progresses? Visit Placer.ai to find out.

This blog includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection.

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