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Retail Foot Traffic Improves as Stores Reopen

In its weekly “Retail Impact Scoreboard,” data analytics firm Unacast said average foot traffic at retail across all segments is down 15 percent year-over-year — an improvement over the past month. Week-to-week traffic is up 16 percent, researchers at the firm noted, adding that home goods and home improvement stores are, to date, “the most recovered” segments in the U.S.

Unacast has tracked retail traffic since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Regarding the velocity of traffic, apparel and accessories top the list of “most rapidly recovering” segments. Apparel is followed by entertainment and hobby with travel and hospitality coming in third.

Despite the speed of recovery in apparel, Unacast said average traffic per venue remains down 23 percent year-over-year in the U.S. Over the past two weeks, when stores began reopening, traffic soared 40 percent week-to-week.

In regard to home improvement traffic, which is up 20 percentyear-over-year, retail analysts have said consumers who have been homebound during the COVID-19 outbreak have flocked to stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and True Value franchises, among others, to “upgrade their nests.”

And while these retailers are benefiting from the increased traffic in the short term, a weaker housing market may prove challenging in the long term.

Joseph Feldman, hardlines analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, said the firm’s most recent “Housing Scorecard” is forecasting “a weaker housing market, driven by the broad economic disruption stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, with our index value declining to 55 in May 2020 from its peak of 85 in January 2020.”

Feldman said Lowe’s remains the firm’s only retailer with an “outperform” rating, as “we believe the company is in a unique position to benefit from a higher concentration of stores in suburban and rural markets, which have been relatively less impacted by COVID-19, and its higher DIY penetration (75 percent to 80 percent of sales) in the short term, along with improved execution, optimized productivity, and refined merchandising in the long term.”

Telsey Advisory Group said Home Depot “should also benefit in the near term from the increase in home improvement demand.”