Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe's in San Francisco

Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe's in San Francisco

Whole Foods and Trader Joe's compete for grocer foot traffic in the premium grocery store category in San Francisco (SFO). Whole Foods operates eight stores in the area, while Trader Joe's operates six stores. They each offer prepared foods and options from local farmers as well as convenience and traditional grocery industry services. In each case, the geographic disbursement of each grocery store is more dense in the city and less so away from the urban center.

Grocery store foot traffic is considered a reliable indicator of local retail activity as a shopper for food is very much in the same vein as a shopper at a pharmacy, for example, in that both grocery and pharmacies are considered essential services. To this end, foot traffic and location data help provide us fresh, actionable analytics insights that go beyond longer-term rear-view mirror indicators.

But exactly how much store traffic does each grocery brand get? How do Whole Foods and Trader Joe's compare to one another? How does a supermarket chain in the SFO region fare vs. Los Angeles or other parts of California in terms of consumer behavior?

To find out, we'll log in to Unacast Now and tap the Venue Data Package to look at foot traffic patterns around San Francisco's Whole Foods and Trader Joe's grocery stores in the month of May 2021. All data is collected from smartphones with opt-in consent. We believe in data for good, and privacy for all. Now let's dive in.

Whole Foods foot traffic May 2021

A leading grocery shopping retailer, the Whole Foods brand is synonymous with fresh, healthy, premium and urban -- tags that should resonate well for a retailer in the affluent, health conscious San Francisco market. But is this grocery chain to the palette of typical residents or workers in post-COVID SFO population, or will new grocer foot traffic patterns reduce Whole Foods' appeal for local consumers compared to a retailer with lower prices, such as Kroger or Meijer?

Whole Foods retail foot traffic in San Francisco for May 2021 was below the state average of about 600 visits per venue per day for a regular grocer (e.g. not a dark store). The weekly foot traffic data of store visits for the top six Whole Food locations is summarized in the table below.

Whole Foods foot traffic

Combined, Whole Foods foot traffic in these six SFO-area stores is 25% less than the state average for a grocery chain. Total average daily visitors across all locations is 451, or 75% of the California grocer trendline. Only one store, 1150 Ocean Ave. showed consistent traffic above the state average, at 859 daily visits or 43% above average. None of the other grocery store locations measured ever topped the 600 average daily visits mark, though 450 Rhode island St. came close in the first week of May at 575 average for the week.

Trader Joe's foot traffic May 2021

Trader Joe's is arguably Whole Foods top competitor in the premium grocer category in San Francisco. Each brand is broadly-recognized, well-established, with a thriving real estate acquisition and store location planning discipline. While perhaps perceived at a slightly lower market tier, Trader Joe's has proven successful at building retail foot traffic by offering the customer a traditional grocers experience with a fresh, downtown feel.

Trader Joe's total retail foot traffic in San Francisco for May 2021 was just slightly below the state average of about 600 visits per venue per day for a regular grocer (e.g. not a dark store). The weekly foot traffic data of store visits for the six measured Whole Food locations is summarized in the table below.

Trader Joe's foot traffic

Combined, Trader Joe's foot traffic in these six SFO-area stores is just 4% under the state average for a grocery chain. Total average daily visitors across all locations is 575, or 96% of the California grocer trendline. Two stores consistently recorded daily average visits well above the state trend: 265 Winston Drive (961 visits per day or 60% above state average), and 3 Masonic Ave. (947/58%).

Whole Foods foot traffic vs. Trader Joe's -- Final Score

Of the San Francisco grocery store locations we measured for foot traffic in may 2021, Trader Joe's is clearly outperforming Whole Foods in the San Francisco market. Trader Joe's daily average visits for the month (575) significantly outpaces Whole Foods foot traffic of 451 visits per day. The performance of Trader Joe's grocery stores in SFO versus California state average for the grocery industry (96%) is much higher than Whole Foods’ (75%).

*Please note, in this exercise we have measured foot traffic patterns only, not movement around dark stores, or related to online grocery delivery, and not necessarily curbside pickup so what you are seeing is a physical snapshot of traditional grocers. Would you like to know more? Check out Unacast Now or talktous@unacast.com

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