Walmart Foot Traffic Surges While Target Slows

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Arguably, the two biggest companies in today’s retail landscape are Walmart and Target. Both retailers adapted quickly to changes in consumer demand by rolling out curbside pickup and mobile ordering services, and both companies continue to iterate on these strategies. Walmart recently announced discounts and savings for its Walmart+ subscription service members. Target is planning on updating its curbside pickup services to include returns and Starbucks coffee pickup. We examined foot traffic at Target and Walmart stores to determine which company performed the best in 2021 and to predict what analysts can expect in 2022.

Target Foot Traffic Underperforms Compared to Walmart

Let’s start by looking at overall consumer visit trends. Over the past year, visits to Walmart rose and fell with peaks in traffic occurring in May, July, and December 2021. The most significant peak was in July 2021, coinciding with Independence Day celebrations and prior to changes in consumer behavior associated with the Delta surge. Surprisingly, Walmart stores didn’t see as much foot traffic in December 2021 as they did in July. By comparison, Target saw roughly one-third the number of visits to its stores as Walmart. Visits to Target stores remained relatively flat through March of 2021 but declined mid-year before rising again during the holiday season in December 2021.

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Walmart’s Foot Traffic Rebound

Until March 2021, Target’s footfall data looked quite similar to Walmart’s. However, between March and September 2021, Target’s foot traffic decreased significantly, before recovering in Q4 2021. In contrast, traffic increased to Walmart starting in April and peaked in July (+35%), before dropping in Q3 2021. As of December 2021, in the midst of holiday shopping, foot traffic at both Walmart and Target stores was 6% higher than at the start of the year. However, by January 2022, foot traffic at both Walmart stores and Target stores had dropped below January 2021 levels. At Walmart stores, foot traffic was 6% lower while at Target stores, foot traffic was 15% lower.

What to Expect for Target and Walmart in Q1 2022?

Based on our data, we predict that Walmart will stay ahead of its competitors, including Target. It is possible that Target will win back its foot traffic, but with its established online presence, the company will more than likely continue to see more online than in-store traffic in the near term. Walmart’s diversified business model, which includes the expansion of its e-commerce marketplace and the creation of a better omnichannel experience for customers, will continue to help the brand drive foot traffic to its retail stores even as its online business grows. To regain shopper foot traffic and compete with Walmart, Target will need to consider how it can diversify its business model without compromising its customer service and experience.

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