Coronavirus fears may have roiled the overall market, but they are helping spur a major surge in traffic at America’s wholesale giants.
According to visit analytics company Foursquare, foot traffic at wholesalers like Costco, BJ’s, and Walmart-owned Sam’s Club has jumped considerably since cities across the country have started closing non-essential businesses and urging citizens to stay home to slow down the spread of coronavirus cases.
From February 19 to March 13, national foot traffic to warehouse stores surged 39% as people prepared to stock up on essentials. New York warehouse stores saw the largest spike in visits, up 51%.
On a company level, BJ’s saw national foot traffic over that time span jump 69%, while traffic at Walmart-owned Sam’s Club rose 46%. Costco saw traffic jump the least, up 24%, which was still a considerable jump considering grocery stores only saw traffic rise 19%.
On its latest earnings call, Costco’s management team addressed how the coronavirus had contributed to a flurry of customers to end its holiday quarter that led to some issues keeping store shelves stocked.
“We’re getting deliveries daily, but still not enough given the increased levels of demand on certain key items,” Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti told analysts on the March 6 earnings call, noting that visits continued to rise into the current quarter. The data provided by Foursquare seems to support that, showing the trend has yet to taper off.
Despite the rise in traffic, Costco shares (COST) are still down by about 4% over the last four weeks compared to the 25% drawdown on the S&P 500, while BJ’s (BJ) shares rose about 38% in that same time period. Walmart (WMT), which owns Sam’s Club, saw shares hit an all-time high Wednesday after Credit Suisse upgraded the big box store to an Outperform rating due to a boost in coronavirus-related shopping.
Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.
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