Goodwill's 600 Million Visits Defy Covid Downturn

The Covid-19 pandemic has been disastrous for much of the retail industry. In the last two years, we’ve watched longstanding retail brands shut their doors with many others on the brink. Some retail sectors have found a way to weather the storm and even grow during Covid, maybe with pivots to digital or successful site selection in the midst of shifting urban populations.

In the case of Goodwill, it appears core demand is so pervasive and essential that Covid actually feeds visitation. 

The Goodwill brand is ubiquitous and synonymous with second hand vintage clothing and household goods. Some people seek priceless vintage styles, while many others need a good deal on everyday products like dishes, furniture, and shoes for growing children.

Whether you’re a shopper at one of Goodwill’s 2,800 stores, or one of many who donate spring cleaning binges, your interactions with the brand make you part of a unique local supply chain with a charitable component. 

This supply chain, unlike those reliant on ports and commercial trucking, remains active and healthy. We can all feel good about taking part as both consumers and citizens with 600 million visits since October 2018.

The big picture

Total visits to Goodwill stores in the US increased on average, trending towards a predicted traffic gain of about 30% by the end of 2022 as compared to October of 2018. Growth is strong in key markets, including Texas and Florida, with accompanying growth throughout most of the midwest and Great Lakes region. California traffic is flat over the same period, with Washington State registering as one of the few net losers of traffic in the measured period. Urban, suburban . . . it doesn’t matter. Wherever Goodwill plants a seed, it grows.

Total recovery and 20% growth in Year 1 of Covid

By late 2019 and into early 2020, Goodwill was peaking in the U.S. Monthly visits during the holiday period reached as high as 20 million per month with sustained strength into February 2020. Visits dropped fast when Covid hit, tallying to 6 million in March. 

Unlike retailers in other categories, Goodwill’s Covid bounce back was almost immediate.

In February of 2021, visitation climbed back to Q3 2019 levels. It peaked to a new record level – about 24 million - in June. That’s total recovery plus 20% growth in under a year as Covid raged across the country. The obvious question is: why? 

The simple answer is one of supply and demand.

Goodwill's value-priced goods will always attract consumers, and there's a readily available local supply to feed the demand. As the economic impacts of Covid-19 ripple through society, more of us are forced to consider alternative price points and brands. We're also consciously engaging with local businesses to ensure their survival, a bang-on match for Goodwill's mission.


2022 and the rise of Goodwill


Goodwill is a bellcow for the second hand sector same as Walmart represents performance for big box stores. We know anecdotally second hand and vintage are hot in the Covid age, and our visitation data for Goodwill confirms the narrative. Vintage really is the new black.

Assuming continuation on the current trendline, by the end of 2022 Goodwill may be on course for an average of 20 million visits per month to the US stores, a gain of about 7.5 million, or 60%, compared to October of 2018.

Our analysis of Goodwill’s foot traffic and visitation data is straight forward. The brand is growing. Is this because of Goodwill’s ability to service a local supply chain, or is there another reason? More importantly, how can Goodwill and other retailers use this information to aid in demand forecasting, site selection, and competitive market intelligence?

These are questions that can be answered by Unacast’s DaaS platform. You can apply for a free trial of Unacast Now, or book a meeting and talktous@unacast.com

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