Call it the essentials-only comeback.
Superstores, grocers and especially fitness centers are leading the way in retail foot traffic as the country moves through a pandemic “gray area” in consumer behavior.
July retail foot traffic data collected by Placer.ai, a consumer location tracking company, seemed to confirm the experiences of low-cost retailers such as Walmart and Costco, which reported strong second-quarter earnings.
In an earnings call Tuesday, Walmart executives said consumers leery of rising prices were turning to the discount retailer for essentials, and the company reported sales had grown more than 8%. Those results mirrored July sales figures from Costco, which likewise pointed to shoppers seeking safe harbors from inflation as it reported a 10.8% year-over-year sales growth for the month. Target, which reports earnings Wednesday, experienced foot traffic 12.3% higher in July than the same period three years ago, according to Placer.ai.
Consumers, meanwhile, have flocked back to their gyms, pushing fitness centers leaps and bounds ahead of other retail establishments according to Placer.ai. Visits to gyms were up 17.6% in July compared to the same month in 2019, the biggest increase of any establishment type in the survey. Outlet malls were the laggards in the tracking, with foot traffic down 7.2% in July from pre-pandemic July 2019 levels.
Gyms joined grocers and superstores such as Walmart and Target as the only retail types in the study that remained consistently above their relative 2019 baselines so far this year, although in more restrained fashion. After notching year-to-date lows in March, shortly after the omicron variant’s U.S. peak, grocery traffic in July crept back to 5.4% above its pre-pandemic level, while foot traffic at superstores was 2.9% higher.
By comparison, as of July, full-service restaurants and malls remained stubbornly in the negative according to Placer.ai’s data, clocking traffic 8.8% and 7.2% lower than July 2019 numbers, respectively.