Skip to main content

In-Store Shopping Tops Pre-Pandemic Levels, Data Shows

During the darkest days of the Covid-19 crisis, most retailers forced to pause their brick-and-mortar business wondered when shoppers would be comfortable shopping in a stores again.

It appears that the answer—at least in the U.S.—is now.

According to data from Criteo, U.S. in-store sales transactions increased 8 percent in May over February last year, the last month before the Covid-19 pandemic caused many non-essential retail stores to shutter worldwide for months at a time amid government lockdowns.

“When lockdowns initially closed stores, we collaborated with our clients to reduce some of the loss by converting their store shoppers into omnichannel buyers. As vaccinations increase and restrictions ease, the ‘great reopening’ of brick-and-mortar is underway and the competition to bring these valuable customers back in-store is fierce,” said Tim Rogers, senior vice president and global general manager of omnichannel and CRM for the commerce media platform provider.

Retailers that ran a solution campaign with its Store Sales platform from January 2020 to April 2021, saw a 38 percent increase in sales on average, Criteo said. The platform, it added, is designed to match a retailer’s in-store transaction data with more than 2.5 billion unique user IDs via a Shopper Graph. Criteo says it then delivers a personalized ad with store-specific messaging and product recommendations based on customer intent and past purchase behavior. It  then measures conversions and uses them as feedback for its Store Engine to iterate and optimize campaigns across all channels.

Related Stories

The Criteo report aligns with June insights from brick-and-mortar retail marketing software solution Zenreach, which found that foot traffic and in-store visits to retail, restaurant, and entertainment venues have already increased 44 percent since the start of 2021, a 6 percent increase from last month.

Retail, entertainment and restaurant traffic in cities that lessened pandemic restrictions later in the year saw even larger growth since January, Zenreach said. These locations in San Diego skyrocketed 173 percent and jumped 121 percent in Chicago. Traffic also rose 77 percent in Boston and 83 percent in New York across these venues.

“With indoor mask mandates starting to lift, Zenreach expects these numbers will continue to increase,” said Megan Wintersteen, Zenreach vice president of marketing. “It would not surprise me if nationwide foot traffic reaches a more than 55 percent lift—since January 1, 2021—within the next three months.”

Shopper confidence in the face of vaccinations has undoubtedly helped in increasing foot traffic, particularly in large metropolitan areas. In May, connected retail solutions provider Sensormatic Solutions unveiled in its Spring 2021 U.S. Consumer Sentiment Survey that half of consumers are neutral (28 percent) or unconcerned (22 percent) about shopping in-store. While 34 percent of the 1,000 shoppers surveyed said they still had some hesitations, only 16 percent said they were currently very concerned.

This is a major shift from sentiment in the heat of the pandemic’s uncertainty. In Sensormatic Solutions’ April 2020 survey, 79 percent of respondents were either concerned (20 percent), moderately concerned (30 percent) or very concerned (29 percent) about shopping in a store.

Naturally, the recent increase in traffic has impacted certain retailers differently., which delivers insights into consumer foot traffic at brick-and-mortar retailers, indicated that there is still significant variance as far as which apparel sellers are winning traffic back, particularly when comparing totals to 2019.

During Memorial Day Weekend, the five days from Thursday, May 27 to Monday, May 31, brought significant traffic growth to brands that have been success stories throughout the pandemic. Target saw foot traffic up 6.6 percent on a two-year basis, while Dick’s Sporting Goods jumped 12 percent and Dollar General had a traffic lift of 17.3 percent. The big winner ended up being HomeGoods, with a 26.2 percent traffic increase over the 2019 holiday. The other TJX-owned banner studied, T.J. Maxx, saw 5.4 percent growth as well.

On the flip side, department stores saw traffic fall compared to two years ago, indicating that they still have a long way to go to win shoppers’ share of visits and wallet. Bloomingdale’s was the best performer among those studied, and its traffic numbers fell 9.2 percent from 2019. Sister retailer Macy’s fared even worse with a two-year traffic dip of 17.2 percent, yet still didn’t have as rough of a holiday as Kohl’s (a 19.1 percent holiday traffic decline) and JCPenney (a 30.3 percent dip).

Even Old Navy, a major part of Gap Inc.’s turnaround strategy, saw traffic plummet 15.1 percent on the holiday.

However, regardless of recent success, brick-and-mortar retailers will have plenty of opportunities this year to gobble up a bigger piece of the pie. While the National Retail Federation (NRF) recently raised its 2021 retail sales forecast from an initial projected growth range of 6.5 percent to 8.2 percent to a new range between 10.5 percent and 13.5 percent, projected online sales growth actually remained the same.

This indicates that the trade association is confident that factors including vaccine distribution and administration, virus infection rates and overall pent-up demand in social attire will bring more people into stores.