Retail Visits Decrease in Q1. But Don’t Panic
Changes in consumer spending habits in response to inflation meant a slowdown in retail traffic during Q1 2023. According to Placer.ai’s Quarterly Index, retail visits fell by 4.2% year over year. Delving deeper, the index reported that Grocery and Superstores – which were strong during the pandemic – experienced visit dips. Meanwhile, Discount and Dollar Stores exceeded 2022 levels. The Fitness category topped all others, with a year-over-year increase of 18.7%.
Ethan Placer.ai’s Ethan Chernofsky told Connect CRE that the visit declines for Grocery weren’t all that dire. “They speak more to the unique context of 2022 and behavior shifts than any change in demand,” said Chernofsky, who is Placer.ai’s Senior Vice President of Marketing.
As for the increase in visits to discount dollar stores, Chernofsky suggested once again that diving beneath specific numbers tells a more complete story. “This speaks less to any decline in demand for superstores than it does the rise for discount and dollar players,” he said.
He explained that superstores continue to maintain a massive present and reach, even with higher foot traffic at the Dollar Generals and Dollar Trees. “This is an important testament to the role they play, the wide nature of products that consumers rely on them for, and expansions into newer segments that have maintained their centrality,” Chernofsky said.
Chernofsky also noted that the metrics don’t suggest that more shopping activity is moving online. At least, not any more than it did in the past. “The key term here is activity,” he pointed out, explaining that online and offline channels should be viewed holistically as an important part of a multi-channel customer journey.
“Sometimes, the consumer is going to browse in-store and then make the final purchase online. Sometimes the online journey is there to support an in-store purchase,” Chernofsky added. “It’s important to view these channels as parts of a single effort as opposed to competing elements. This is just as true in segments where brick-and-mortar has a clear advantage, like grocery, as in those where online has an edge.”