Foursquare

Foursquare has been monitoring foot traffic levels, analyzing data from pre-pandemic times through the early weeks and months of the national health crisis and now as some relaxations of stay-at-home orders are implemented in parts of the country.

In its latest findings, Foursquare reveals that fast food and gas station visits have returned to pre-pandemic levels in the Midwest and in rural areas across the nation. While still below normal levels, visits in suburban and urban areas have increased substantially, up 15% since bottoming out in late March.

Men, and adults between the ages of 35-64, have shown more moderate declines across different types of places and are also showing a greater propensity to return. Visits to walking and jogging trails (+31%) and home improvement stores (+56%) are up substantially from Foursquare’s benchmark period, which was the week ending Feb. 19. In the last two weeks, home improvement store visits are up 20% versus just 6% in the two-week period prior.

Overall, the Midwest and rural areas of the country have shown more moderate declines during the pandemic and are also showing a stronger inclination to return to normal.

Foot traffic to quick service restaurants (QSRs) has risen over the past several weeks, with traffic down only 5% nationally as of April 24. Fast food visits are back to pre-pandemic levels in the Midwest, as well as in rural areas across the country. While fast food visits are still slightly down in the West, South and Northeast, they are down only 4-8% compared to before the pandemic.

Location data shows that men have been quicker to return to fast food restaurants than women, with QSR traffic from men down only 4% as of April 24. QSR traffic from women was down 8%. Visits to fast food locations has increased across all age groups in recent weeks, Foursquare reports, with visits up most for 35-65-year-olds.

According to an April survey of consumers in Foursquare’s always-on panel, more than one third of fast food visitors said they planned to visit that restaurant again within the next week, and more than 77% planned to return within the next month.

With the slow return to normalcy, Americans are gassing up vehicles again. Visits to gas stations are up slightly in April, down only 6% as of April 24, compared to 8-11% in the weeks prior. In the Midwest and in rural areas of the country, gas station traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Visits to gas stations were nearly back to pre-pandemic levels among men as of April 24, down only 3%. Visits by women were still down 13%. Age wise, its 45-64-year-olds who are filling up, or topping off, their gas tanks. According to Foursquare’s April survey, 54% of gas station visitors said they plan to visit that station again within the next week and nearly 90% planned to visit within the next month.

The report also looks at foot traffic to automotive stores (only down 6% as of April 24); grocery stores (slightly up in the Midwest and Northeast with normal levels in the West and South); big box stores (down only 5% nationally); discount stores (down 7% as of April 24); convenience stores (down only 10% nationally); pet stores (down 16% nationally versus 23-29% in the weeks prior); warehouse store visits have returned to pre-pandemic levels around April 19.

Places that are being visited more than normal include hardware stores like the Home Depot and Lowe's, which have increased significantly in recent weeks, up 56% as of April 24. Hardware traffic is up across all regions of the country, but is most increased in the Midwest (71%) and Northeast (55%). When surveyed, 23-28% of respondents say they are visiting hardware stores to buy lawn and garden products, while 11-12% are purchasing paint products.

Getting outdoors is also high on the list of Americans as they begin to venture away from home. Visits to hiking trails are up 31% nationally from the week ending Feb. 19, compared to the week ending April 24. Trail traffic is up most in the Midwest (+77%) and Northeast (+57).

And for those staying at home, the bulking up on adult beverages continues with liquor visits remaining above pre-pandemic levels, up 10% as of April 24.

Americans are treading lightly when it comes to visiting bars and restaurants, many of which were only providing pick-up and delivery through April 24. Visits to casual dining have increased very slightly since mid-April, down 70% nationally. Foursquare finds that visits to bars has also risen very slightly, down nationally 54% as of April 24, versus 58% in the weeks prior.