Walmart Consumer Foot Traffic Rebounds After March Drop


Panic buying at supermarkets peaked in mid-March as the pandemic turned shoppers into hoarders emptying shelves of toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

But Walmart, which gets more than half its U.S. revenue from grocery sales, didn’t benefit much from the early buying as shoppers went elsewhere, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. retailers’ foot traffic.

By early May, trips to Walmart had rebounded and outpaced supermarket visits, the news service found.

The data offers a glimpse into the dramatic changes in shopping patterns in the weeks leading up to the pandemic and what followed after states shuttered all but essential businesses.

Investors and analysts will be watching on Tuesday (May 19) as Walmart releases its first-quarter earnings report. Forecasters have predicted Walmart will post its best quarterly sales in three years. But analysts say it will come at a cost because the company has invested millions to combat the pandemic.

Reuters compared foot traffic observed by SafeGraph, the San Francisco-based data tracker, from the first week of March through early May.

“During panic buying time, it was ‘I want to get my groceries, and that’s all I want to do,” Randy Hare, portfolio manager at Huntington Private Bank, which owns shares of Walmart, told Reuters. “‘I want to do it safely; I want to get in and out.’”

Some shoppers, he said, may have concluded Walmart’s checkout lines would be too long.

SafeGraph found Walmart saw an 18 percent increase in foot traffic from March 13 to March 17 compared to the first week of March, or about half the increase supermarkets experienced during the same time period as shoppers collected products before the lockdowns.

After that initial surge in visitors, traffic to Walmart and other big box and grocery stores fell in late March and early April, researchers found. Walmart lost more traffic than most supermarkets but still performed better than Target and’s Whole Foods, which saw traffic drop by 26 percent and 33 percent, respectively, during the first two weeks of April.

Still, as of May 6, foot traffic to Walmart stores had rebounded 16 percent compared to the first week of March.

Last week, PYMNTS reported Walmart is doing away with its standalone grocery app in favor of it being integrated with Walmart’s original app.

“After listening to customer feedback, we found that customers wanted to shop without switching between apps,” Walmart said in its letter to shoppers.


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