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2021: Q1 Quarterly Index
The grocery sector was among the brightest in all of retail as its performance throughout the pandemic illustrated the sector’s unique strength. And while there is real reason to believe that the top players in the sector could have an even stronger 2021, it is also clear that normalcy is returning. The sector’s high point hit in the pre-pandemic rush in 2020 set a bar that visits could not reach in 2021. However, much of the decline was also centered around the heavy toll from severe inclement weather. The result is a highly anticipated Q2 that could validate optimism or lead many to assume that the sector’s ‘lightning in a bottle moment’ has ended.
Analyzing dozens of brands including:
Grocery Returning to Normalcy
While visit declines could be related to other factors like inclement weather, the rising importance of weekend visits indicates that normal routines and patterns are returning. Grocery chains will need to adapt to this changing environment or incentivize the behaviors that helped drive last year’s strength to continue to thrive.
The Strong are Still Strong
Q1 presented grocers with several significant challenges including fewer days in February, severe inclement weather throughout the country and comparisons to the pre-COVID surge. Yet, leading traditional grocers like Publix still saw only limited year over year declines. This speaks to the unique power and potential of players in the sector.
Analyzing the Outliers
Some brands, whether because of approach or region, saw unique challenges or changes during the pandemic. Winn Dixie – which had seen significant year over year growth throughout the pandemic – is now facing comparisons to that strength. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s – two brands that struggled early in the pandemic – are beginning to rebound effectively.
Visit Durations ‘Normalizing’
Declining or flat metrics in visit duration indicate a growing return of ‘normalcy’ in the grocery sector. While this should benefit some brands significantly, others will need to find ways to capture the unique benefits of longer and more substantial visits.
The grocery sector is showing a clear return to normalcy. This should provide advantages for some but also brings up concerns over some of the pandemic’s overperformers’ ability to continue to overperform. Yet, there are continued signs that traditional grocers are uniquely well-positioned to maintain their strength deeper into the year. As other brands continue to recover, the idea of a growing overall pie is increasingly solidifying.
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