Traffic at Walmart, Costco and Target falls for the first time in weeks as coronavirus stockpiling behavior shifts

Marketwatch reports Traffic at Walmart Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp. dropped for the first time in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic ramped up in the U.S., according to Placer.ai.

Walmart traffic was down 6.7% year-over-year for the third week of March. The previous week, traffic was up 18.4%.

At Costco traffic fell 8.7% year-over-year for the third week of March. The second week of March, traffic jumped 34.7%.

And at Target traffic slumped 20.5% in the third week of March after climbing 19.2% year-over-year the previous week.

At each of the three retailers, traffic grew the last week of February and the first week of March.

“There is a downside to stocking up for the long haul,” wrote Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing for Placer.ai, in a post on the company’s blog.

Placer.ai is a retail intelligence company.

“Once you have all the things you need, there is little need for more visits,” Chernofsky wrote.

Placer.ai data shows that the slowdown was more pronounced in areas that have been hit harder by the coronavirus outbreak. For instance New York, which is most affected in the U.S., saw the sharpest decline, while in Arizona, where the impact has been far less, the decline wasn’t as steep.

“The positive here is that the data indicates that as the situation improves, and doesn’t worsen, consumer behavior tends to return to more normal patterns,” Chernofsky wrote.

“Should this trend hold, it’s a very strong endorsement for those who believe that wider retail activity could quickly return to previous levels should the preventative measures being enacted serve their ultimate goal.”