More shoppers visited brick-and-mortar stores this summer, according to the latest index from location intelligence firm Placer.ai.
It was a hot summer for retailers, according to new industry information. Placer.ai, which provides foot traffic insights and location intelligence, tracked visits to superstores and grocery stores around the country and found that an unexpected resurgence in COVID-19 cases due to the emergence of the Delta variant and other factors impacted retail spaces in the third quarter of 2021.
According to Placer.ai's latest quarterly index report, visits to grocery and superstores rose 7.6% in third quarter compared to the pre-pandemic third quarter of 2019, while dining visits declined.
“The rise in grocery and superstore visits was likely driven by a combination of forces including a reopened retail environment, the summer season and even potentially the rise of COVID cases. The increase in staycations this summer probably also contributed to the visit growth, as the ongoing pandemic continued throwing a wrench in vacation plans,” wrote Shira Petrack, marketing content manager, in a recent company blog post.
According to Petrack, the increased foot traffic is an indication that although the embrace of e-commerce is real and rising, it may not be a “long-term threat” to in-store shopping.
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In its recent report, Placer.ai also delved into some differences between grocery stores and superstores. Its data points to a slower, steadier gain in superstores, with continual rises in visits over the past few quarters. In grocery, it’s been more of a see-saw, with visits declining close to 3% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2021 but rising more than 2% in comparative second quarters.
“This speaks in part to the unique strength that superstores possess in addressing such a wide range of needs from grocery to apparel and even home goods. But it also speaks to the widespread distribution of locations enabling them to balance declines in harder hit areas with increases elsewhere. In grocery, the regional nature of many chains limits this, pushing some to see weakness when an area is particularly affected by COVID or weather,” explained Petrack.
Even as the grocery sector is marked by some volatility, many food retailers are turning in strong performances, by Placer.ai’s measure. In its analysis of retail banners, the tech firm reports that Acme Markets, an Albertsons Cos. subsidiary, had a 30.4% year-over-two-year visit increase in the third quarter of 2021 with other grocery chains, including Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, Stater Bros. Markets, Publix, Hannaford and Albertsons, also notching more traffic.