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Grocery
Quarterly Index
2021: Q3

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Grocery is a sector that seems to have benefited considerably from the pandemic’s impact on retail patterns. Restaurant closures and restrictions coupled with more time at home significantly contributed to increased grocery store visits. And while grocery foot traffic moved closer to pre-pandemic patterns in Q1, the subsequent rise in cases and associated dip in consumer confidence has been driving grocery visits up again in recent months. 

Analyzing dozens of brands including:

Grocery Visits Rise Again

There seems to be a strong correlation between grocery visit growth and a rise in COVID concern, and Q3 2021 was no exception. Grocery visits climbed by 7.6% compared to Q3 2019 while dining visits dropped, indicating that certain consumers were likely eschewing restaurants in favor of home cooking to avoid exposure to the current COVID wave. The sector also continues to benefit from the lingering economic uncertainty and loyalty driven by pandemic success. As more people return to the office and to restaurants, tracking foot traffic in this space will reveal the longer-term impact of COVID on the grocery sector. 

 

“Grocery visits rose by 7.6% compared to Q3 2019 while dining visits dropped.”

+7.6%
Yo2Y grocery visits rose by 7.6%

Increase in Weekday Grocery Shopping

The year-over-two-year grocery visit surplus was greater for weekday visits than for weekend visits. This could be due to the rise in staycations this summer, or the fact that many people are still working from home and enjoying a more flexible schedule. But the rise in weekday visits may also reveal a more lasting shift in consumer habits. Whereas at least part of the weekend used to be reserved for running other errands, it seems that consumers are still taking advantage of the reopenings and the renewed license to socialize. Perhaps more shoppers are now dedicating their weekends to leisure and squeezing in food shopping when they can during the week. 

“Weekday grocery visits are on the rise, which could indicate a lasting shift to consumer habits.”

+8.2%
8.2% Yo2Y increase in grocery visits

Median Visit Duration Drops

The pandemic introduced us to the concept of mission-driven shopping – consumers minimizing their exposure by making longer, less frequent shopping trips to stock up on food and other essentials. Now, mission-driven shopping appears to be a thing of the past. Median visit duration dropped by 5.4% in Q2 and by 2.4% in Q3 when compared to 2020, and Yo2Y data indicates that visit length has more or less returned to pre-pandemic norms. 

“Mission-driven shopping appears to be a thing of the past.”

-2.4%
Median Visit Duration Dropped by 2.4% Compared to Q3 2020

Impressive Visit Growth Across Grocery Brands

Grocery is a highly regional business, but the grocery visit hike reached across the United States and impacted numerous leaders in this space. Of the brands analyzed, ACME Markets saw the biggest year-over-two-year increase in visits, with Q3 visits 30.4% higher than Q3 2019 visits, followed by Food Lion Grocery Store and Piggly Wiggly. The variety of regional leaders and chain sizes represented in the graph below indicates just how widespread the rise in grocery visits truly was. 

“The grocery visit hike reached across the United States and impacted numerous leaders in this space.”

+30.4
Visits to ACME Markets up by 30.4% Compared to 2019

Summary

Year-over-two-year visits were up significantly this past quarter, likely due to a rise in COVID cases. The visit hike reached across the country and positively impacted several regional grocery leaders. At the same time, the median visit duration fell, indicating that the pandemic-induced mission-driven shopping was truly over. 

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