We explored how Target foot traffic compares to Costco foot traffic throughout the United States. Read on to learn how these two powerhouse brands stack up in different states.
While they don’t offer the same consumer experience, Target and Costco are nonetheless direct competitors in the big box general retail category. Both brands are ubiquitous, drawing an average of perhaps 90 to 100 million visits between them every week nationwide. Q1 foot traffic for each usually peaks around the middle of February, before dropping off to quarterly lows by the end of March.
From the central states over, the contiguous U.S. is Costco’s map, barring rebellious little Vermont. In most states, including Texas, Florida and New York, Target wins by an average of about 7 visits to every 3 for Costco (this drops to ~6:4 around the Great Lakes). From a birds-eye view, it’s just a handful of smaller western states that Costco can put in the win column: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.
But look a little closer at some large urban centers in the bordering states and you’ll soon see that Costco’s foot traffic, reach and threat to Target extends to a large portion of the southwest and mountain states. Let’s dive-in with a high level look at foot traffic data from Q1 of 2021 and 2022 for each brand to see what we can learn about how that competition may play out.
Though the state skews slightly in favor of Target, most of California’s major urban centers are hotly contested. Costco has a slight overall foot traffic lead in several counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Kern, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Diego. It’s really only Target’s relative strength in the massive Los Angeles market that carries the state on the whole. There is a lot of both offense and defense to play here for both brands. One could imagine Costco expanding in northern California with a new Napa location -- the market size seems right around the range of Costco’s lower threshold elsewhere.
Maricopa County AZ is home to Phoenix, America’s fifth most populous city. Both the state and the city are net beneficiaries of inbound human migration since, and before, the onset of Covid-19. The competition between Costco and Target in this large and growing market is fierce -- as tough to call as the 2022 midterms were. Pima County (Tucson) is Target’s but only by the slightest of margins. That, and Costco not entering a few smaller markets, is the only reason the state color skews ever so marginally Target.
In Colorado, both Denver County (Denver) and El Paso County (Colorado Springs) are a toss-up. This is significant for Costco as, despite losing the state foot traffic total by a ratio of ~2:1, Costco competes step-for-step with Target foot traffic in two of the state’s three largest markets. From the perspective of territorial expansion, Costco is probably everywhere they need to be in Colorado, they just need to figure out how to have the same success in mid-sized centers (e.g Adams County) as they do in larger urban environments.
The competition between Target and Costco foot traffic is much closer than it may appear. Repeatedly, the theme in the west, southwest and mountain states is of Costco competing on equal terms with Target in most markets outside Los Angeles.
If Costco wants to build from territorial strength, a growth focus in Colorado and Arizona will be essential. Breaking through the Rockies to claim Denver outright would go a long way to solidifying Costco’s regional presence, while also extending the brand’s territory further east.
Target foot traffic, on the other hand, needs to hold tight to the L.A. market, because that’s their best anchor in California and the southwest in general. Target can continue taking net traffic away from Costco nationwide by opening new locations in markets Costco won’t bother with, namely those with <1 million visits up for grabs.