Visits to top retailers in the U.S. stabilized somewhat in the third quarter of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic eased up a bit (before the rate of infections surged once again in the fourth quarter) visitation patterns tracked by location data company InMarket showed trip frequency and dwell times making a tentative turnaround at some retailers.
Shoppers visited some grocery, drug, convenience, mass and dollar stores more frequently than the prior quarter. While still depressed overall when compared to the same time period last year, the loyalty index (measured by the average number of repeat visits an individual shopper made to a store from July through September) increased quarter over quarter at King Soopers, H-E-B, Jewel-Osco, Giant-Landover, Fry’s, Smith’s, Kroger, Winn Dixie, Stop & Shop, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, Speedway, Target, Meijer and Dollar General. Most of the listed retailers saw only miniscule upticks in loyalty, but King Soopers stood out with the biggest leap back toward pre-pandemic trip frequency levels, rising 0.55 to 3.977 and sliding into the top position as the most visited retailer.
Notably not on the list of retailers that saw improvements in this metric was Walmart, where repeat visits continued to decline significantly, falling 0.21 to 3.53. Yet that wasn’t necessarily bad news for the retailer’s bottom line as this year's dwell times have remained consistently higher than last year, and shoppers averaged bigger baskets even as they consolidated their trips. Near the end of the third quarter, Walmart launch its highly anticipated membership program, Walmart+, in an effort to double down with existing shoppers and get more share of wallet. Competitor Amazon saw a comparable decline in visits to Amazon Go stores (down 0.24 to 2.67) and Whole Foods Market stores (down 0.10 to 1.776), though that retailer was of course capitalizing on this year’s accelerated growth in e-commerce. The only other retailer who saw a bigger decline in trip frequency was Fred Meyer (down 0.32 to 2.67).
While browsing store shelves may never again return to its status as a common pastime, shoppers at several retailers in the grocery, home improvement, drug, dollar, convenience and pet channels spent more time in the aisles. Dwell time (the average length of time shoppers stay while visiting store locations) increased quarter over quarter at Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, Food Lion, Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, Family Dollar, Dollar General, 7-Eleven, PetSmart and Petco.
Ace Hardware far outpaced the other retailers in terms of recovering trip lengths, rising by 2.58 to 25.27 minutes. Family Dollar (up 0.83 to 15.13 minutes) and Petco (up 0.50 to 26.03 minutes) also showed significant growth in dwell time. Petco may be reaping the fruits of seeds sowed as it gears up to be publicly traded again. During the third quarter, Petco deployed a marketing campaign touting the science behind several of the pet food brands it sells as it continued to spotlight the new nutrition standards it implemented last year, and the retailer started stocking prescription pet food. Petco is pitching itself as a much-improved, category-defining health and wellness company for pets. A major marketing campaign highlighting the company’s evolution is slated for early 2021.
Costco's position as the retailer with the longest trip lengths on average remained secure even though dwell time dropped 2.15 to 49.38 minutes. The biggest loser in terms of trip length was Staples, where dwell time continued to plummet at a drastic rate, falling 4.76 to 24.48 minutes.
Only three retailers saw gains across both dwell time and trip frequency: CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and Dollar General. Interestingly, all three chains recently launched their own retail media networks.
The full report with data for more than 45 top U.S. retail chains is available to Path to Purchase Institute members through an exclusive partnership with InMarket, a leader in 360-degree consumer engagement and insights. Members also can analyze individual retailer snapshots tracked over time within the Market Position and Strategy Overview section of p2pi.org's Retailer Profiles.