Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a Placer.ai account? Log In

Wholesale Update: Costco's Back, BJ's and Sam's Club Continue to Rise

by 
Ethan Chernofsky
 on 
July 21, 2020
Wholesale Update: Costco's Back, BJ's and Sam's Club Continue to Rise

The wholesale sector has been so thoroughly dominated by Costco in recent years, that one can be forgiven for ignoring other players in the space. Yet, Sam’s Club has been on the rise and BJ’s Wholesale has seen a massive surge since the start of the pandemic. 

So, has the space gotten more competitive with Costco seeing downturns in visits for the first time in years? Can the giant recover considering it still operates heavily in some of the hardest-hit states?

We dove into the data to find out.

Wholesale’s Pandemic Pattern

Costco kicked off 2020 with the type of growth that many brands would celebrate, but the king of wholesale’s progress was as expected. Visits rose 3.0% and 11.9% year over year in January and February respectively, but the pandemic did hit visits hard from March. Even with a massive surge in the early weeks of March, Costco still saw an overall visit decline of 0.4% with declines continuing through June. While larger basket sizes and eCommerce help, the trend was still important to note.

Sam’s Club also saw visits looking strong in early 2020, but its regional distribution and lower starting point - the brand has seen a resurgence since the middle of 2019 - helped it see significant gains in March as well before visits began to decline year over year in April. And while Sam’s Club should be thrilled with visits in June up year over year by 3.4%, the true ‘winner’ within the category is BJ’s Wholesale Club.

BJ’s had seen fairly consistent year-over-year declines in monthly visits in 2019, and kicked off 2020 with January visits down 3.0%. Yet, from February, BJ’s Wholesale has been surging. Visits in March were up 30.3% year over year, and this growth has sustained throughout the pandemic with June visits rising 15.7% year over year.

Weekly Visits - Examining Pace

And the pace for the sector has been steady with a pickup the week of July 6th. Clearly, rising concerns of a new shutdown are providing a lift. But it is critical to remember the built-in effect that club memberships benefit from in driving repeat visits. If you’re willing to shell out money for a yearly membership, the likelihood of you returning to maximize this ‘investment’ is very high. Not to mention that the value orientation of these brands is clearly a strong fit in the current economic environment. As a result, Sam’s Club and BJ’s both saw weekly visits at 7.7% and 22.1% respectively in terms of year over year growth that week - impressive numbers.

But the biggest story when analyzing weekly data is Costco. For this first time since the pandemic kicked off, Costco weekly visits were up year over year with 2.0% growth - and every day that week apart from Sunday the 12th saw daily year-over-year growth. Considering the higher basket size and strength of Costco’s online offering, this could amount to a huge uplift - and all this without key business units like travel or in-store services. And impressively, the signs were actually apparent a week earlier when July 3rd visits rose 19.6% year over year - giving the brand its best day since March. So while competitors have been rising, Costco’s strength has been on clear display in recent weeks putting to bed any concerns about this giant’s short term future.

Trending in the Face of Change

Perhaps most impressively, these returns are happening with consumer behavior trends still 

very different than “normal”. All brands analyzed saw the percentage of weekend visits drop significantly between 2019 and 2020.

And the same was true with the time of day visits took place, where a clear shift towards the morning was visible. The ability to drive visits in this environment is especially powerful because it shows that the pull of these brands is not routine dependent like other sectors. Instead, it demonstrates that visitors have such a strong brand relationship that they will find ways to fit these players into their routine - whatever that routine may look like.

Conclusions

Wholesale’s king is on the rise again and the performance should push the brand into the rarified class of the biggest and strongest of retailers. Considering the loss of  business units, the operations in the hardest-hit states, and the self-imposed restriction, the numbers are truly exceptional.

Yet, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale are rising, giving an added level of intrigue to the sector and positioning these players to battle for position in what is sure to be a growing space.

How will the wholesale sector continue to perform and evolve? Visit Placer.ai to find out.

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 Placer.ai Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Digging Into Darden: Q2 2024 Update
2024 Retail and Dining Trends Update
TRU and avid: Midscale Hotels on the Rise 
Diving Into Kroger: A Strong Start to 2024
Placer.ai Mall Index: May 2024 Recap – Mall Visits on the Rebound
Placer.ai Office Index: May 2024 Recap
2024 Memorial Day Recap
Las Vegas: A Tourism and Migration Deep Dive
Eatertainment Chains: Full on Food, Fun, and Foot Traffic
The Promise of Luxury Apparel
Catching Up With Ulta Beauty & Gap Brands
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Five Below: Q1 2024 Treasure Troves
CAVA Still Going Strong
Driving Success: Auto Parts Chains in 2024
Checking in With DICK’S Sporting Goods
Mother’s Day Shopping and Dining Trends
Placer.ai Mall Index: April 2024 Recap – Retail Resilience Heading into Spring
Dollar Stores Still Gaining Momentum
Off-Price Apparel Chains After Q1 2024: Demographics in the Balance
Walmart, Target, and Wholesale Clubs Continue to Thrive
Home Improvement and Decor Check In
Placer.ai Office Index: April 2024 Recap – Recovery Continues
Movie Theaters in Q1 2024: A Preview of Coming Attractions?
Let’s Get Physical: Fitness In 2024
Where Are Workers Returning to Office in 2024?
2024 Wins: Sweetgreen & First Watch on the Rise
A Full-Service Turnaround: Bloomin’, Dine, and Texas Roadhouse
Wendy’s and Denny’s: Breakfast and Late Night Dining Drives Success
Coffee Chains: Q1 2024 Update and What’s Changed Since COVID
Checking in with RBI and YUM!
Chipotle & McDonald's Serving Up Success
Wingstop & Shake Shack Continue Growing Their Reach 
Strong Start for Sprouts in 2024
Crocs’ Footwear Fairytale
Who Attends NCAA Final Four Events?
Eclipse Fever: How Did the (Retail and Hospitality) Stars Align?
Exploring Albertsons Companies’ Grocery Growth
Placer.ai Mall Index: March 2024 Recap – Malls Rise Again
Placer.ai Office Index: March 2024 Recap
Florida Spring Break Break-Up? Travelers Still Love Florida!
Provo-Orem and Ogden-Clearfield Emerging As Utah Hotspots 
Three Formulas for Experiential Retail in 2024
Aldi & Lidl Making The Cut
Texas Suburbs on the Rise
Exploring Luxury Hotel Brands’ Guest Segmentation
The St. Patrick’s Day Effect
How Can JOANN Make a Comeback?
Panera Bread Well Positioned for Possible IPO
Who Will Benefit From Family Dollar’s Downsizing?
Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment: Food and Fun for Everyone
Darden Brands: Location Analytics and Consumer Behavior
Nike and lululemon: a Strong 2023, Sprinting into 2024
Where Is Retail and Dining Foot Traffic Thriving in Early 2024?
Placer.ai White Paper Recap – February 2024
Three Retail & Dining Chains That May Surprise in 2024
Specialty Discount Chains Rock Retail Therapy
Placer.ai Mall Index: February 2024
Placer.ai Office Index: February 2024 Recap
Ulta Beauty Continues To Shine
First Watch Sails Into 2024
Hibbett Sports and DICK’S Sporting Goods: A Psychographic Analysis
Checking in With Discount & Dollar Stores
Peeking Behind The Curtain: Movie Theaters in 2023 and Beyond
Diving Into Brick-and-Mortar Eyewear
Getting Into Gear: Exploring The Auto Part Industry
Recapping Valentine’s Day 2024 Foot Traffic Trends
Fitness: A Strong Start to 2024
Dutch Bros. Continues To Percolate Visits
Super Bowl 2024: Placer.ai’s Postgame Foot Traffic Analysis
CAVA & sweetgreen Are On the Rise
Hats Off For Off-Price
Who Is Shopping at Malls?
Drilling Down Into Home Improvement
Walmart, Target, Costco & Superstore Space 2023 Recap
Catching Up With Shake Shack and Wingstop
Something To Chew On: Demographic Shifts at Steakhouse Chains
Placer.ai Office Index: Looking Back at 2023
Recapping RBI & Yum! Brands’ 2023 Foot Traffic Performance
Placer.ai White Paper Recap – January 2024
Who Shops at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters?
Three Taco Chains to Watch in 2024
Starbucks and Dunkin’: 2023 in Four Data Points
Who Visits CVS and Walgreens?
Fashionably Frugal: Apparel in 2023
Catching Up With Fast Food
The Grocery Sector in 2023: An End-of-Year Recap
3 Mall & Shopping Center Trends for 2024
Bakery Chains Rising To The Top
Placer.ai and Esri Partner to Deliver Geospatial Analytics
Tampa Tourism Trends
Going For The Green: The Changing Dynamics Of Country Clubs
Christmas Day Dining Recap
Major Urban Shopping Districts – Holiday Season Recap
Placer.ai Office Index: December 2023 Recap
Recapping the 2023 Holiday Shopping Season
Placer.ai White Paper Recap – December 2023
7 Retail & Dining Segments to Watch in 2024
Diving Into Holiday Season Favorites
Super Saturday and Christmas Eve Eve: A Winning Combination
3 Budget Grocery Chains Finishing 2023 On a High Note