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Data & Tech

Tracking COVID-19's Influence In The U.S.

Volume 6

Written by Foursquare on Apr 22, 2020 - Read time: 10 min - Read Later

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, we’ve been committed to sharing how the virus is impacting foot traffic to a variety of places (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here and part 5 here).

In this week’s analysis, we examine foot traffic patterns at different types of places across the country since the outbreak began. Visitation to many places has remained stable since the end of March,  indicating that people may be starting to settle into the ‘new normal.’ To gain a more comprehensive view of daily life since COVID-19, we’ve also explored the virus’ effect on some new places -- pet stores, veterinarians, and wireless carrier stores. 

Using our location data, we will continue to provide updates about how consumer behaviors are changing throughout these troubling times.
 

Our Methodology

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?

Here are some new trends we’re seeing in the data from last week, through Friday, April 17.

  • Adopting New Pets - Visits to pet stores rose 7% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending March 17, perhaps indicating that people were adopting new dogs and cats. We also saw an uptick in visits to veterinarians around the same time (up 5%). However, traffic to these places has since declined, with traffic to pet stores down 22% and visits to vets down 6% as of April 17.

  • Delaying Device Upgrades - Foot traffic to wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon declined 35% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 17, perhaps indicating that people are waiting longer than usual to upgrade their devices, or simply purchasing new devices online instead.

Here are updates on the trends we shared last week:

• Cancelling Travel Plans - Visits to airports continue to decline, down ~80% nationally from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 17.  People likely won’t start visiting flying again in the near future -- in a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel April 15 - 21, only 1.4% of respondents planned to visit an airport in the next week.

Hotel visits have been mostly stable for the past several weeks, down 65% nationally from the week ending February 19.

• Stocking Up On Supplies - Foot traffic to warehouse stores spiked early on following the outbreak of COVID-19, as people bought supplies in bulk. 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 declined to below normal levels, down 13% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 17.

Foot traffic to grocery stores peaked in the week ending March 19, with visits up 35% nationally. However, grocery store visits have since returned to normal levels, roughly stable since the beginning of April. That being said, in a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel April 15 - 21, only 64% of respondents planned to visit a grocery store in the next week.

Visits to big box stores spiked around March 18 as well, followed by a decline until around March 31. Big box traffic then picked back up slightly around the last week of March and first week of April, perhaps indicating that people ran out of supplies and went out for more. However, big box visits then declined again, and were down 6% as of the week ending April 17.

Discount stores similarly saw a uptick in foot traffic around March 18, with visits up 18% nationally from the week ending February 19. However, visits then returned to slightly below normal levels by the week ending April 17 (down 6%). Discount store visits are down most in the West, and less so in the Midwest and South.

Convenience stores also 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 11% nationally from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 17. Convenience store visits have remained fairly stable at this level over the past several weeks.

• Dining & Drinking At Home - Visits to quick service restaurants (QSRs) have risen slightly in the past few days, with traffic down only 12% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 17 (whereas QSR traffic was down ~20% at the end of March). While fast food visits were still down 15% in the West, they were only down 10% in the Northeast.

Visits to casual dining restaurants (CDRs) have remained fairly stable since around March 26 through April 14 (down 70-73%).  Casual dining traffic is down slightly more in the West and Midwest (down 71% in both regions) and slightly less in the Northeast and South (down 69%). People likely won’t start visiting sit-down restaurants again in the near future -- in a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel April 15 - 21, only 5.6% of respondents planned to visit a casual dining restaurant in the next week.

Traffic to bars declined 56% from the week ending February 19 to the week ending April 17, with visits fairly consistent over the past several weeks. People likely won’t start visiting bars again in the near future -- in a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel April 15 - 21, only 1.4% of respondents planned to visit a bar in the next week.

Meanwhile, liquor store visits have fluctuated since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Traffic peaked around March 20, and then began declining through March 31. However, traffic then started to rise again starting April 1, perhaps indicating people ran out of beverages and started heading back to the store for more.  Liquor store traffic has remained above normal levels through April 17, up 6% nationally since the week ending February 19.

• Working From Home -  Visits to offices have been stable since around April 1, down 41% nationally from the week ending February 19. Office traffic has been down slightly more in the West and Northeast (down 46% in both regions) and relatively less in the South and Midwest (down 39% and 36% respectively).

• Fixing Up The House -  Aside from a slight decline in foot traffic around Easter Sunday, visits to  hardware stores have been up 29-32% nationally since around April 1. While traffic is up across regions, hardware store visits are up most in the Northeast (38%) and South (36%).  71% of hardware store visitors purchased items for personal home improvement, DIY or maintenance, according to a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel April 15 - 21.

• Finding New Fitness Routines - Foot traffic to gyms has remained stable since around April 1, down 66-67% from the week ending February 19. Meanwhile, visits to hiking trails have been consistently up since the last week of March, up 25-30% from the week ending February 19. Trail traffic is up most in the Northeast and Midwest.

• Shopping Online Rather Than In-Store - Foot traffic to shopping malls has been stable since the last week of March, down 63-65% nationally from the week ending February 19.  Traffic to clothing stores in particular has been stable since around March 29, down 74-75% from the week ending February 19. Visits to furniture stores have similarly been since around March 29, down 59-60% from the week ending February 19.

• Streaming Movies Instead Of Watching In Theaters - Visits to movie theaters have been consistently low since around April 1, down ~75% nationally from the week ending February 19. People likely won’t start visiting theaters again in the near future -- in a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel April 15 - 21, only 1.3% of respondents planned to visit a movie theater in the next week.

• Banking Online - Visits to bank branches have fluctuated since the outbreak of COVID-19 amidst unprecedented economic uncertainty, with peaks in foot traffic around March 5, April 3, and again around April 17.

• On The Road Less - Visits to gas stations have remained fairly stable over the past three weeks, down 9% nationally from the week ending February 19. Gas station traffic is down slightly more in the West (down 13%), and less in the Midwest (down 6%).  In a survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel April 15 - 21, 42% of respondents planned to visit a gas station in the next week.

Aside from a dip around Easter Sunday, visits to automotive shops have been mostly stable since around March 28, down 11-14% nationally from the week ending February 19.

• Skipping Beauty Treatments - Hair salon and nail salon visits have been roughly stable since around April 1, down 40-42% nationally from the week ending February 19.

We’ll be monitoring foot traffic patterns closely over the coming weeks, so check back for more updates.

 

 

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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. 

The charts above illustrate indexed foot traffic to various locations. We’ve used rolling 7 day averages to account for fluctuations in foot traffic by day of the week. Visits are projected based on user profile representation relative to census. These projection factors are updating regularly. These updates may cause slight shifts in indexed foot traffic week-to-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 April 15-21 2020.

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Tracking COVID-19's Influence In The U.S.

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