Site Performance & Selection: Retail foot traffic office supply data in New York State

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To study retail foot traffic office supply data in New York State, we used Unacast Now and Tableau to build an interactive map detailing the foot traffic performance of  office supply retail store operators Staples retail stores in New York State from September 2020 to September 2021. Click around and zoom-in a bit and you will notice distinct pockets of opportunity for each office supply retail location. We will discuss these in detail below.

Retail foot traffic office supply data is an interesting part of the retail sector to study in the age of the COVID 19 pandemic. Already a go-to source for many small and local businesses, one can envision potential growth in retail foot traffic for office supply stores given how many people now find themselves working from home, or going entrepreneur. There also seems to be room for developing variations in curbside pickup, foot traffic related to school supply needs, and other retail engagement methods that draw foot traffic for an office supplies retailer.

Below, you’ll find a few retail foot traffic observations we made using the interactive map. The big white pins on the map are each a Staples retail store location in New York State. The smaller, colored dots show areas where foot traffic to a nearby retail store originates from; the brighter the color, the more foot traffic comes from that area. You can zoom-in on the map and hover over different dots for information about different traffic data related to a particular store or the CBG (Census Block Group) that retail visitors to an office supply store originate from.

A quick scan will show you that the lion’s share of the store traffic for Staples’ retail locations is in NYC’s five boroughs. That makes sense as there is a massive population of consumers and a large potential customer base there to provide foot traffic. The farther east you get from the city - through Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties - the more dispersed locations become. The area north of the city, up to Poughkeepsie, follows a similar pattern. Staples has strong coverage to the upstate area, with a couple pockets of opportunity or risk, depending on how you look at things. One such area is Troy.

There is both opportunity and risk in Troy

About 10 miles north of Albany and the nearest Staples location is Troy, a city of about 52,000. For context, Troy is about 2x the size of nearby Latham, NY, and 5x the size of Rensselaer, NY, which do have Staples locations. There is clearly foot traffic originating from shoppers in the Troy area that are making the trip to other Staples locations. The question is: Is that there enough of it in and around the Troy area to support retail sales in that city?

It seems the opportunity exists for Staples to develop a site in Troy to service the local market but that comes at the risk of cannibalizing retail foot traffic from their other stores. However, the bigger risk may be that a competitor with established presence in New York State, such as Office Depot, could open up in Troy, service the nearby market, and perhaps even steal traffic from Staples’ area stores. A review of the retail analytics in Unacast Now indicates that may be a good idea.

Foot traffic insights from location data at each office supply big box store can inform either brand’s analysis and decision making. Site selection, site performance and competitive intelligence use cases are all served.

Central Rochester doesn’t have a big office supplies retailer

Rochester’s Midtown District and downtown area are generally underserved. While Staples already has four physical store locations in the area, they are all located on the outskirts of the greater area, along major interchanges that bypass the downtown area. For a city approaching 215,000 population with a growing downtown core, that feels like a gap in the market. A look at the retail foot traffic patterns seems to back this up.

Even during the COVID 19 pandemic, a significant amount of foot traffic making its way to Staples’ area locations originates from loyal customers who live inside the downtown core and the urban area’s ring roads. 

For many people who live here, a visit to a more central store, not requiring a ride on a busier roadway, or a trip to distant department store, may make sense.

What also makes sense is for Staples to consider filling this regional void, even if only with a smaller downtown store, as a means to play defense against Office Depot or another competitor with a digital (Facebook, Twitter, other social media, web, mobile app, etc.) presence in the market who sees a gap in the map as a way to move into the Rochester market by means of a physical location.

There’s a competitive void in Buffalo

Staples does not seem to be interested in Buffalo. Despite strength in comparable markets elsewhere, the dominant office supply retailer in New York does not have a single store in the Buffalo-area market. Their nearest location is in Rochester, better than an hour’s drive east, or it's just as far south to the Olean, NY location.

So why the indifference in Buffalo? 

We know from our own research that Buffalo is one of several mid-sized cities across the US that is showing signs of growth since the COVID 19 pandemic  began; we covered that in Downtowns going Uptown.

We also know that Office Depot has three locations in the Buffalo area, so surely there is an existing market. What there is not is even a hint of competition. Other than intentionally avoiding the market - due to Office Depot’s established presence or for some other reason - it is difficult to understand Staples’ lack of a physical location in Buffalo.

Why Unacast?

Transparency - No more black box data solutions. Unacast provides the source IDs and source categories behind all of our geolocation data feeds to our clients, so you can gain further insight into the audience and feel confident about the authenticity of your location data.

Accuracy - We put all of our data through a strict cleansing process that includes deduplication, fraud detection and the removal of corrupt data and bid stream data. We gather geospatial data across multiple providers to ensure an accurate, full view of a user’s activity.

Unacast offers four types of location data feeds, customizable based on client needs:

Visits dataset - The Unacast Visits dataset is a database of confirmed visits to known points of interest (POIs). The Visits data feed includes a timestamp, average lat-long of the venue, venue-ID, venue name, brand name, venue ID, city, state, zip-code, dwell time, SIC category, NAICS category and stock ticker. This dataset is a good fit for clients who prefer to work with location data that has been contextualized and thoroughly vetted on accuracy.

Pure dataset - The Pure dataset is an unfiltered stream of location and geospatial data that Unacast has aggregated from our suppliers. The Pure dataset includes a timestamp, the lat-long coordinates of the interaction, horizontal accuracy, IP address and source-ID. This dataset is a good fit for investment firms prioritizing volume, with the internal capabilities to attach POI, analyze and extract value from alt data in a raw form.

Neighborhood dataset - The Neighborhood datset describes foot traffic trends, traffic patterns and insights for Census Block Groups. These features are derived from billions of location signals per day sourced with GDPR, CCPA regulations, cleansed, processed and aggregated to Census Block Groups. The aggregates derived are extrapolated and supply corrected such that the features describe the US population. 

Migration Patterns dataset - the Migration patterns dataset is a set of products for analysing shifts in population. Currently, the package consists of two datasets:

Home-based Origin-Destination Flux (OD Flux) derives moves from changes in home location of a device and therefore is able to capture the origin and destination of each move. In order to assess that a move happened with certain confidence, an observation window of several weeks (currently 8 is required, which means that our insights are more certain, however, come with a delay of approximately half of the observation window (4 weeks).

Population Distribution Trends (PDT) is a metric that measures the proportion of devices in each state or county at a weekly snapshot. When a mass of people moves from one area to another, the proportion shifts accordingly. This metric is useful for analysing the momentary situation, as it has no delay. Compared to OD Flux it doesn’t provide information about directionality of the moves or their permanency.

Unacast can help any retailer to make better-informed decisions. Try Unacast Now for free to get started.


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