Placer: Full-Line Supermarkets Weather Coronavirus Well

Full-line supermarkets are maintaining relatively strong store traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more specialized operations tending to suffer, according to analytics platform Placer.ai.

Traffic at supermarkets and grocery stores followed a similar pattern, with visits seeing significant year-over-year growth leading into a huge peak in the second week of March but a divergence thereafter.

Whole Foods was among those hardest hit, Placer stated, with a steady traffic performance from January 2019 through the second week of April 2020 but a decline of about 50% year-over-year for the last two weeks of April. Trader Joe’s suffered declines of about 45% year-over-year in the first week of April and around 55% in the second week.

With traffic holding up a bit better, Publix’s visits were 18.9% above the baseline the day before Easter while overall year-over-year weekly visit declines capped out at under 15%. Wegmans saw relative stability during the period through mid April despite increased measures to limit the number of customers in stores at any one point as social distancing became an imperative.

With even stronger performances, Kroger and Albertsons had year-over-year weekly traffic growth peaking at 50% and 33%, respectively, in the second week of March with following lows relatively moderate as weekly visits dropped 11.3% and 12%.

Placer speculated that Kroger and Albertsons have benefited from their position as full-line supermarkets that can provide one-stop shopping, which not only includes food but also a wide variety of cleaning products and medication. Although full-line grocers like Publix and Wegmans have been affected by the intensity of the COVID-19 outbreak among consumers where they operate, which, among other developments, has contributed to social distancing-related limitation on shoppers in stores. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have a large percentage of stores in densely populated cities and suburbs that have been heavily impacted by coronavirus and a perception among at least some consumers that they are pricey.

However, another factor may be store size. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are relatively small grocery operations with narrow aisles and limited departmental space in fresh food, particularly when compared to full-line supermarkets. Social distancing requirements can be more challenging, as fewer customers can shop the store at one time.

The Placer study reviews store traffic and does not acknowledge pickup or delivery activity.