Labor Day Foot Traffic: Brand Performance in 2019 vs. 2020

Labor Day Foot Traffic: Brand Performance in 2019 vs. 2020

Labor Day weekend is often considered to be an indicator of how brands will perform during the holiday season. The “end-of-summer” holiday is known for its retail sales — while many people go out of town for the weekend or host parties, others go out shopping in search of a good deal. This year, however, was a very different story due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an effort to appeal to consumers, many brands invested heavily in advertising. However, consumers weren’t planning on spending as much as they did in 2019. In fact, a recent survey found that 49% of consumers expected to spend less this year on Labor Day. We compared Labor Day 2019 and 2020 foot traffic data to determine if brands were able to drive consumers to shop in-store. Here’s what we uncovered:

How Did Brands Perform for the Labor Day Weekend 2020?

In what may come as a surprise, many brands actually saw higher in-store foot traffic this year compared to Labor Day weekend 2019. Foot traffic to Lowe’s and Home Depot was 44.91% and 70.67% higher, respectively, compared to the same weekend last year. Kohl’s saw 22.34% higher foot traffic to its stores. Walmart also performed well compared to its competitors, Costco and Target: foot traffic to Walmart stores was 18.21% higher, while Costco was only 1.64% higher compared to last year. As the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the country, Walmart saw the most total visits both during Labor Day 2019 and 2020 weekend. In contrast, the smallest and most upscale of the retailers we examined, Lord & Taylor, did not perform as well compared to the other brands: foot traffic to its stores was 15.69% lower this year.

It isn’t too much of a surprise that home improvement stores, wholesalers, and retailers with significant online presences that have consistently performed well during the coronavirus pandemic, also performed well over the Labor Day weekend. Labor Day sales might also have brought consumers into stores because of paused travel plans. Consumers who may have otherwise gone out of town might have instead chosen to work on projects at home or to host a socially-distant barbeque with the “pod”—which required a quick run to get home improvement supplies or a one-stop trip to pick up groceries.

Pre- and Post-Holiday Foot Traffic for Labor Day 2019 vs. 2020

The 28-day comparison analysis, which looks at the two weeks pre- and post Labor Day weekend, reveals more brands underperforming compared to 2019. This, of course, is COVID-19 related. Lowe’s, Costco, and Home Depot performed the best among the brands we examined. Foot traffic to Lowe’s was 17.89% higher compared to the previous year. Costco beat out its competition, including Walmart and Target, as its foot traffic was 14.85% higher than in 2019. Although it didn’t outperform Lowe’s, Home Depot also turned in a strong performance: foot traffic was 9.72% higher compared to last year. In stark contrast, Lord & Taylor saw a 46.81% decrease in foot traffic to its stores compared to 2019.

Predictions for the 2020 Holiday Season

If these Labor Day 2020 insights serve as any indication, brands might be able to still drive foot traffic to stores this holiday season. However, retail store performance will likely depend on various factors, especially consumer convenience and safety. Brands will need to make sure that they balance online sales efforts with in-store promotions in order to get the most out of their holiday sales. 

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