Technology

Acme’s Win Is Whole Foods’ Loss, Foot Traffic Analysis Suggests

Trip duration up, visits approaching historic levels
Photograph by WGB Staff

Shopper trips to grocery stores—which cratered amid the arrival of the pandemic in the U.S. 10 months ago—are continuing to recover while the length of shopping trips have continued to grow, according an analysis of fourth-quarter foot traffic by location-based service software company Placer.ai.

The data on trip duration “is a testament to the power of the grocery sector and the likelihood of larger than normal basket sizes” during the fourth quarter, Placer said, but relatively flat shopper visits across the sector—down by 0.9% year over year, Placer says—speak to the effect of a wide division between winners and losers, with some chains, like Albertsons’ Acme brand, seeing sizable increases and others, like Amazon’s Whole Foods Markets brand, losing considerable traffic on a year-over-year basis.

These results are illustrative of the effects of what Placer officials have called “mission-driven” shopping, where pandemic-wary consumers have done a greater percentage of their overall shopping among fewer outlets. Supermarket chains that have seen meaningful increase in visits, such as Acme or Stater Bros., have found that their wide selections and convenient locations have been especially helpful in these times. Whole Foods, beset by what Placer called a “perfect storm” of disadvantageous conditions, is by contrast in need of “a rapid end to the pandemic.”

According to Placer data, Acme, the Malvern, Pa.-based Albertsons banner with stores in the Northeast, saw a 23.8% year-over-year increase in visits in the quarter. Stater Bros. was up by 10.4%; Aldi showed an 8.2% trip increase; the Albertsons banner was up by 4.7%; and Weis Markets by 4.4%. Whole Foods traffic crashed by 18.7%.

The visits aren’t necessarily related directly to sales performance, which in the case of public companies listed are still months away from being revealed. And traffic to stores would not necessarily account for e-commerce, which has been widely reported to have also seen considerable increases since the pandemic onset.

Trip duration has also seen an increase “across the board,” providing an indication that shoppers are making more of every visit, Placer said. Acme, with a 5% year-over-year increase in this metric, according to Placer data, is also setting the pace in this category, but Trader Joe’s is up by 4% and Kroger, Schnucks and Aldi all realized 3% increases in the quarter.

Founded in Israel and with U.S. offices in Los Altos, Calif., Placer software provides insights and location analytics for retailers.

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