Retailers

Grocers get less of a lift from ‘Turkey Wednesday’ store visits this year

The key shopping day remains the "peak of the grocery calendar," a Placer.ai analysis shows.
Thanksgiving turkey dinner-table_from National Turkey Federation
Visits to grocery stores on Turkey Wednesday 2022 dipped 2.5% from 2021 but were up 12.5% from 2020 and 4.5% from 2019, Placer.ai said. / Photo: National Turkey Federation

The surge in grocery store visits on “Turkey Wednesday” this year didn’t measure up to last year’s gain, but retailers gobbled up an extra sales helping nonetheless, according to location-based retail foot traffic specialist Placer.ai.

Nationwide, visits to supermarkets and other grocery retailers on Turkey Wednesday 2022 (Nov. 23)—the last full shopping day before the Thanksgiving feast—dipped 2.5% from Turkey Wednesday 2021 (Nov. 24). Looking farther back, however, visits climbed by 12.5% versus Turkey Wednesday 2020 (Nov. 25) and by 4.5% from Turkey Wednesday 2019 (Nov. 27), a location data analysis by Placer.ai showed.

Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing at Placer.ai, described Turkey Wednesday as the “peak of the grocery calendar,” despite being overshadowed by the higher fanfare of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping bonanzas. The Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, he noted, has proved to be a store visit and transaction driver as consumers scramble to pick up staples or missing items for the holiday meal.

Turkey Wednesday 2022 grocery store visits-Placerai

Source: Placer.ai

“Turkey Wednesday 2022 marked a similar pattern seen throughout the year, with the grocery sector up on its pre-pandemic standard but down compared to the peaks hit in 2021,” Chernofsky wrote in a blog post yesterday. “This indicates yet again that while visits may be reduced slightly compared to the year prior, the overall sector was given a long-term boost by the pandemic’s retail impact.”

Indeed, daily visits to grocery stores were 79% higher on Turkey Wednesday 2022 compared with three weeks earlier, about the same as a year ago (79.3%). That percentage was even larger when comparing Turkey Wednesday store visits to average daily visits from the first to the third quarters, with gains at 87.8% for 2022 and 93.4% for 2021.

Those numbers affirm that Turkey Wednesday remains a “powerful draw” for grocers, according to Chernofsky.

“A similar pattern was seen when breaking down the Turkey Wednesday visits to top grocery chains,” he explained. “Traditional grocers such as Albertsons and Publix experience higher visitation peaks during Turkey Wednesday compared to limited-assortment grocers like Aldi, Lidl and Trader Joe’s.”

Turkey Wednesday 2022 grocery store visits-comparison-Placerai

Source: Placer.ai

Compared with Q1 to Q3 average daily store visits, Turkey Wednesday visits were up 99.5% at Albertsons, 84.4% at Whole Foods Market, 83.3% at Publix, 82.8% at Kroger and 80.1% at H-E-B, Placer.ai reported. Limited-assortment grocers—possibly not carrying all the items shoppers sought for their Thanksgiving celebrations—generated smaller increases, at 64.9% for Lidl, 56.3% for Aldi and 42.6% for Trader Joe’s.

“This is an important takeaway, as it reinforces the powerful role that many of these traditional, all-in-one grocery chains play—even in the face of rising competition from value- and discount-oriented competitors,” Chernofsky added. “The emphasis on proximity, regional expertise and loyalty have given these chains a significant boost since the onset of the pandemic, and the strength appears to be lasting. It also reinforces important opportunities that exist within the grocery sector for revenue expansion, including the opportunities for upsell and marketing value.”

Mass merchants and dollar stores saw smaller increases in store visits than supermarkets on Turkey Wednesday compared with Q1 to Q3 average daily visits, coming in at 53% for Walmart, 45.9% for Costco, 41% for Sam’s Club, 40.3% for Dollar General, 38.6% for Target and 35.3% for BJ’s Wholesale Club, Placer.ai’s data revealed. On Turkey Wednesday, store visits were down 5.2% for Costco, down 3.2% year over year for Target, down 2.2% for Walmart, down 1.1% for BJ’s and down 0.2% for Dollar General but up 1.6% for Sam’s Club.

Turkey Wednesday 2022 grocery store visits-chains-Placerai

Source: Placer.ai

Yet, for these chains, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving provides a big cross-shopping opportunity for other merchandise and sets the stage for upcoming December holiday store visits.

“The opportunity here is perhaps even stronger with chains like Target and Walmart, possessing a unique capacity to turn a trip for one specific item into a much larger and more expansive basket,” Chernofsky said in the blog. “The recognition that the pre-Thanksgiving rush will drive visits is key to maximizing the impact of each of these visits.”

One area where consumers likely benefitted from shopping on Turkey Wednesday, of course, was the turkey.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), which conducts an annual survey of the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner, shoppers bagged sizable savings by buying their birds late. This year, AFBF’s estimated the average cost of a 16-pound bird at $28.96, or $1.81 per pound, up 21% versus 2021. The bureau’s volunteer shoppers, though, checked prices from Oct. 18 to Oct. 31, before most grocers started merchandising whole frozen turkeys at much lower prices. Citing USDA Agricultural Marketing Service data, AFBF said the average per-pound feature price for whole frozen turkeys was $1.11 for the week of Nov. 3 to Nov. 9 and 95 cents for the week of Nov. 10 to Nov. 16, a 14% decrease in one week, and the share of stores offering feature prices rose from 29% to 60%.

“Even with the stress of inflation, several chains showed a strong performance on Turkey Wednesday 2022 when compared to 2018 and 2019, and only a slight dip when compared to the foot traffic of 2021,” Chernofsky observed. “The significance here is crucial, as it emphasizes one of the core pillars of strength for these retailers. When an opportunity arises to drive urgency for retail visits, these chains are often well-positioned to attract those visits and drive conversions.”

 

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