- Foot traffic at many of the nation’s top food retailers is trending upward even as in-person visits remain down compared with levels recorded at the same time last year, according to Placer.ai, an analytics company that measures activity in retail and other locations based on data from people’s mobile devices.
- Visits to a group of 10 grocery chains studied by Placer collectively increased in June compared with May, but were still down 7.1% on a year-over-year basis.
- Kroger posted a 1.8% decrease in foot traffic in June compared with the same month in 2019, Publix was off 2.4% and H-E-B sagged 5.2%. Conversely, Lidl saw year-over-year visits for the month rise 7.5%, while Albertsons recorded a 5.4% increase.
The findings from Placer suggest that consumers are steadily growing more comfortable shopping for groceries in person even as the number of COVID-19 cases surges.
Foot traffic was stronger in June than it was during the previous month at all but one of the banners Placer examined — and the grocer that did see its traffic pace fall compared with May, Lidl, was up year-over-year nevertheless. In a sign of its resilience, the German chain is the only grocer among the 10 studied by Placer that has consistently recorded stronger year-over-year foot traffic since the pandemic took root in March.
"Simply put, things are looking good in grocery. The brands that performed best during the pandemic are continuing to succeed, those who had strong relative numbers are moving closer to normal, and even the companies that were hardest hit are showing signs of life," Ethan Chernofsky, Placer's vice president of marketing, wrote in a blog post about the company's findings.
Trader Joe’s showed the greatest improvement among the grocers on Placer’s list. The chain saw foot traffic decline 12.3% in June compared with the same period in 2019, but that figure compares favorably with a much steeper decline of 25.2% in May.
Whole Foods remained the laggard among the banners in the group, although its 34.1% year-over-year decline in foot traffic June was better than the 41.7% decline the chain recorded in May.
Other grocery brands Placer looked at include Safeway, where June visits were off 4.7% compared with that month last year; Wegmans, which posted an 18.3% decline; and Aldi, which saw 4.5% less foot traffic.
Food retailers saw traffic in their stores rise at the same time that online grocery operations marched ahead. Grocery e-commerce operations posted sales of $7.2 billion in June, a 9% increase over May, according to data collected by Brick Meets Click and Mercatus. More than 45 million households reported that they opted to buy groceries online during the month, and about a third said they are very or extremely likely to place a grocery order for pickup or delivery during the next 90 days.
Placer.ai also looked at data from July in its report. In a sign that people were determined to celebrate on Independence Day despite the pandemic, visits to Publix skyrocketed 52.3% on July 3 compared with 2019, and July 4 traffic was up 19.6%. Kroger scored a 49.6% year-over-year increase in foot traffic on July 3 and saw the number of people entering its stores rise 15% on the holiday itself.