Over the past few weeks, we’ve shared some of the effects of COVID-19 on visitation to a variety of places (part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here). We will be updating that foot traffic data on an ongoing basis as the situation continues to evolve in the United States. Here is the most recent update.
This week, we’ve taken a closer look at how men versus women and different age groups are behaving in the physical world since the outbreak of COVID-19. Location data verifies that younger consumers under 25 years old have been slower to adhere to social distancing advisories and guidance to stay at home. There is also a noticeable pattern of men being ‘out and about’ more so than women.
In the analysis below, we detail foot traffic patterns to date across major consumer categories, broken out by gender and age cohorts. Using our location data, we are committed to continuing to provide information on how behaviors are changing throughout these troubling times.
We use indexed foot traffic to demonstrate the relative decline in visits to different types of places, where visits on the first day are 100. We analyze data on a rolling 7-day basis to reduce the effects of foot traffic trends influenced by certain days of the week (for example, bars and clubs experience an uptick on Fridays and Saturdays).
So, to explain this in an example, an 81 index to airports for March 6 indicates that foot traffic between February 29 - March 6 (a 7-day rolling period) is 19% lower than the first 7 days of analysis, February 13 - February 19.
We used February 13 - February 19 as the first 7-day period benchmark for analysis because February 19 is when we last estimated foot traffic to be roughly normal for the categories analyzed. You’ll see us reference this period as “the week ending February 19.”
What Does The Latest Data Show?
Everyone is responding differently to the COVID-19 outbreak. Below are some of the trends we’re seeing in the data from last week, through Friday, April 3:
Young people 18 to 24 years old have been slowest to adhere to guidance to stay at home. This trend is particularly evident at airports and hotels, indicating that many college students still traveled over spring break despite the outbreak of COVID-19. Location data shows that young people were still visiting a variety of other places while older people stayed home, including bars, fast food restaurants, shopping malls and gas stations (detailed below).
Women are socially distancing more than men. Nearly every type of place is seeing a lower proportion of total visits from women and a higher proportion of total visits from men since the COVID-19 outbreak began. The one notable exception to this trend is hardware stores, where visits are actually up more amongst women than men.
Here are updates on all of the trends we shared last week:
1. Cancelling Travel Plans - Location data shows that young people 18 to 24 years old continued to travel despite the outbreak of COVID-19, with visits to airports from this group actually above normal levels from March 7 to March 18. 18 to 24 years olds were also slower to stop visiting hotels than other age groups. Meanwhile, people over 65 years old were also slower to stop flying after the COVID-19 outbreak began, but have seen the largest relative decline in foot traffic to airports of any age cohort, with visits down 82% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3.
Airport visits overall were down 75% as of April 3. Air travel is not likely to pick up again soon -- in a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always on-panel in March 2020, only 1-2% of respondents planned to visit an airport in the next week.
So who is still traveling? Both airports and hotels have seen visitors skew more male since the COVID-19 outbreak began -- airport visits went from 59% male to 65% male, while hotel visits went from 57% male to 63% male. This shift has occurred because visits to airports and hotels are down more among women than men (airport traffic is down 77% among women and only 72% among men; hotel traffic is down 69% among women and only 61% among men).
2. Stocking Up On Supplies - Foot traffic to warehouse stores spiked early on following the outbreak of COVID-19 as people bought supplies in bulk, particularly those under 35 years old. Visits to warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club were up 41% nationally the week ending March 17. However, warehouse store traffic has since returned to roughly normal levels, or even below normal levels amongst consumers over 55 years old.
After stocking up on supplies for a few weeks, people started going to grocery stores, big box stores, discount stores and convenience stores more to replenish their food. Foot traffic to grocery stores reached a peak the week ending March 19, with visits up 35% nationally. Grocery visits gradually declined since then, and were only up 8% nationally from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3.
Visits to big box stores spiked around March 18 as well. While people over 65 years old began flocking to big box stores earlier than other age groups, their visits to the category have since declined the most (down 7% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 30). After a low around March 31, visits to big box stores seem to have picked back up slightly, perhaps indicating that people ran out of supplies and started going out for more.
Discount stores saw a notable uptick in foot traffic around March 18, with visits up 19% nationally from the week ending February 19. However, visits to discount stores have since returned to slightly below ‘normal’ levels. Convenience stores similarly saw a small increase in foot traffic around March 18, with visits up 6% nationally from the week ending February 19. However, visits to convenience stores have since declined, down 10% nationally from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3.
3. Dining & Drinking At Home - Younger people 18 to 24 years old were slower than other age groups to stop visiting fast food and casual dining restaurants once the COVID-19 outbreak began. People over 65 years old have shown the largest relative decline in foot traffic to quick service restaurants (QSRs) and casual dining restaurants (CDRs), with visits down 20% and 80% respectively from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3. While visits to casual dining chains remain low, visits to fast food chains have seen slight upticks in traffic from the week ending March 27 to the week ending April 3. Furthermore, 23.5% of consumers surveyed March 25 through March 31 planned to visit a fast food restaurant within the next week.
People under 25 years old were noticeably slower to stop visiting bars after the COVID-19 outbreak began. In contrast, millennials 25 to 34 years old actually show the largest relative decline in foot traffic to bars, down 64% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3. Traffic to nightlife spots is not likely to pick up again soon. In a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always on-panel in March 2020, only 1-2% of respondents planned to visit a bar in the next week.
Instead, people are stocking up on drinks to enjoy at home. Interestingly, older audiences over 65 years old were the first to start heading to liquor stores. Liquor store visits peaked around March 20, and then began declining across age cohorts through March 31. However, traffic rose again starting April 1, perhaps indicating people are running out of beverages and heading back to the store for more. Men are likely the ones going back to the store for more booze -- visits to liquor stores from women were actually slightly down (1-8%), while visits from men were up 8% in the week ending April 3.
4. Generally Staying In
• Working From Home - Foot traffic to offices is down 39% nationally from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3 as employees opt to or are advised to work remotely. Office visits are down most amongst millennials ages 25 to 34 (down 45%), and least amongst people 55 to 64 years old (down 35%).
Location data also indicates that women may be working from home more than men -- visits to offices were down only 36% among men, but were down 47% among women from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3.
• Fixing Up The House - Foot traffic to hardware stores like The Home Depot and Lowe’s are up 32% nationally from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3. Consumers 18 to 24 years old showed the greatest relative uptick, with visits up 50% as of April 3, while foot traffic from people over 65 years old was up only 15%. It’s worth noting that hardware store traffic typically skews older, with more than 50% of visits from people over 45 years old, so these larger relative upticks are to be expected.
Interestingly, hardware stores are seeing a slightly higher proportion of visits from women since the COVID-19 outbreak began, from 36% to 37%. This shift took place because hardware store visits from women rose 34% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3, whereas visits from men only rose 31%. This is a notable outlier -- every other type of place analyzed is seeing more visits from men than from women since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
• Finding New Fitness Routines - Foot traffic to gyms has declined more than 65% across age groups from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3. Gym traffic has declined more amongst women -- visits from women are down 70%, while gym visits from men are only down 63%.
Meanwhile, people are visiting parks more than usual, perhaps running or enjoying other outdoor activities. People 18 to 24 years old in particular visited parks much more than usual since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
• Shopping Online Instead of In-Store - Younger audiences 18 to 24 years old were slower to stop visiting malls and clothing stores than other age groups. Older people over 65 years old showed the fastest and steepest relative decline in mall and clothing store visits.
• Streaming Movies Instead Of Watching In Theaters - Compared to other types of places, movie theaters were one of the first types of places to see significant declines in foot traffic. Visits to movie theaters were down 76% nationally from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3. Theaters are seeing the largest relative decline amongst younger consumers under 35 years old, and smaller relative declines amongst consumers over 45 years old. That being said, theater visits remained relatively flat from the week ending March 27 to the week ending April 3.
• Banking Online - Physical branches saw an uptick in foot traffic around March 5, driven most by older audiences over 55 years old. However, foot traffic to banks then steadily declined through around March 30. Since then banks actually saw another uptick in visits across age groups, returning to roughly normal levels by the week ending April 3. This may indicate that as unemployment rises, people are visiting their local branch to apply for a loan or mortgage, or to make other financial arrangements.
While the initial uptick in foot traffic to banks was driven slightly more by women, the more recent increase seems to be coming from men. Foot traffic to banks from men is up 3% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3, while foot traffic to banks from women is still down 3%.
• On The Road Less - After initial upticks in foot traffic, gas stations like Exxon and BP then declined, down 9% nationally from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3. Gas station visits declined later and relatively less amongst young people 18 to 24 years old, while traffic declined most amongst older people over 65 years old.
Visits to gas stations are also down more amongst women than men. Gas station traffic from women is down 16%, while traffic from men is only down 5% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 3.
We’ll be monitoring foot traffic patterns closely over the coming weeks, so check back for more updates.
Editor's Note: Foursquare analyzes foot traffic patterns from more than 13 million Americans that make up our always-on panel. All data is either anonymized, pseudonymized or aggregated, and is normalized against U.S. Census data to remove age, gender and geographical bias. For this report, we looked at data from 2020 year to date.
The charts above illustrate indexed foot traffic to various locations. We’ve also used rolling 7 day averages to account for fluctuations in foot traffic by day of the week.
Casual dining restaurants analyzed include casual dining chains in National Restaurant News’ Top 500 Chains.
Survey data mentioned above is derived from a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel, delivered via owned and operated mobile apps (Panel App, Frequent Flyer and Give 2 Charity) from March 25-31, 2020.
Age and gender insights above are derived from a combination of both deterministic and probabilistic demographic data.