Pictures often tell a story more clearly than words. The following snapshots of retail foot traffic show the impact of COVID-19 and the restrictions that have been imposed to limit its spread. Captured from thousands of Zenreach Network retail locations across North America, these charts show the number of in-store visits recorded when customers walk into these locations.
The Zenreach Network is made up of thousands of business locations. Each location has one or more WiFi access points that record the presence of wireless devices. Using signal strength, dwell time, and other data collected through these access points, Zenreach is able to determine very accurately how many in-store visits occur each day.
2020 was shaping up to be a great year for retail with daily foot traffic up an average of 6% through the first two months of the year. As reports of COVID-19 emerged from Asia, there were no material impacts on traffic until March. While the decline in March started as a trickle, things turned sharply downward starting the weekend of March 14. From March 6 to March 31, traffic nationally declined more than 60%.
Restaurants, and other food and beverage businesses started strong in 2020, with business up significantly over 2019. But these were among the earliest businesses affected by COVID-19, first as patrons in many areas began limiting social interaction, and later as local and state governments restricted or stopped dine-in options altogether. Nationally, traffic to restaurants, bars, and nightclubs is down by more than 60% through March 31.
Health officials say the Bay Area is home to what is believed to be the first U.S. cases of community-spread coronavirus. The first cases were reported on March 1. As a result, the six-county Bay Area acted more quickly than many other regions by imposing restrictions and closing schools on March 16. Traffic patterns reflect this. Declines began on March 5 and fell sharply starting March 16. Foot traffic since March 5 is down a total of over 60%.
The first case of coronavirus appeared in New York state on March 1. New York City and the statewide legislature began enacting an increasingly stringent set of restrictions on March 7 when the governor declared a state disaster emergency. Restrictions have escalated since then until March 20 when Governor Cuomo signed an executive order to implement a strict, ten-point policy limiting movement. In-store traffic since March 9 has dropped over 60% in New York City.
New Orleans partied longer than most cities in the U.S. Restaurant and retail traffic remained strong through the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. Although the first confirmed COVID-19 case wasn’t reported until March 9, cases since then have since skyrocketed. Authorities acted quickly to limit social interaction by closing bars, restaurants, and other public businesses on March 17. Traffic fell quickly in the days that followed, down over 70% between March 14 and March 31.
As you can see, our data indicates that foot traffic is down significantly across the board. Though unfortunate for businesses in the short term, this is in fact good news, as people are clearly heeding warnings to self-isolate. Successful quarantine measures will ultimately result in a speedier overall recovery, so you’ll be able to return to normal business operations sooner.