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"PiinPoint has become an integral part of my role as Retail Analyst at Cushman & Wakefield Waterloo Region. The platform allows me to put together professional looking reports and provide clients with the insights they need to make real estate decisions.

I honestly don’t know how I would do my job effectively without PiinPoint."

Jessica McCabe, M.Ed.
Retail Analyst

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Visits to Canadian Retailers are down 76% during COVID-19 Pandemic



May 5, 2020

Read Updated Report

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit us all, but very few industries have been hit harder than retail. In Canada, PiinPoint’s Mobile Location Data shows that visits to retailers are down 76% from this time last year.

Not surprisingly, the data shows that restaurants have been hit the hardest, experiencing a 95% drop in visits when compared to the same period last year, given the strict business closures that have been enforced by provincial and federal governments. Those eateries with an option for drive-thru service, such as fast-food restaurants, are seeing a 70% decrease in visits. 

Banks, clothing, and home decor stores reflect a similar impact as restaurants, with an 89% drop in visits, while electronic and office supply stores have seen an 82% decrease in visits. With stay-at-home measures in place and few people driving to work, gas stations have seen a 90% decrease in visitors, despite record low gas prices. 

Home Improvement stores have taken a hit with a 35% decrease in visits, and that number is expected to increase as many stores have been forced to move to curbside pickup only. 

Grocery stores initially saw a massive increase in visits leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic announcement, as people stocked up on supplies. Amidst the battles for toilet paper and panic-buying, there was a surge of visits to Grocery stores, peaking at a 196% increase on March 23 when compared to the previous year. However, following the stock-up period and this large increase, visits are still down 27% year over year. We all know this is for good reason.

While some businesses have been forced to close their doors, either temporarily or permanently, others have been able to adapt; offering curbside pickup or delivery, reducing the number of customers in the store at one time, and/or implementing other measures to keep their staff and customers safe.

Using PiinPoint’s Mobile Location Data, we are able to track movement patterns of consumers in Canada and the United States to monitor the recovery rate as the Retail Industry begins to look at reopening.

Specifically, we are monitoring data from retailers in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. We track consumer activities happening at banks, clothing and home stores, electronic and office suppliers, fast food restaurants, full-service restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, home improvement stores, and movie theatres, as well as the retail industry in general. 

In order to track this data, we selected a series of retailers that operate across the country and represented a good cross-section of the industry. Using our Location Intelligence platform, we identified all locations for the selected retailers within the listed cities and created a geofence around each of those store locations, including their parking lots in the catchment area. This allowed us to take into account both take-out and curbside pickups within our visitor data.

Using anonymized mobile location data, we were able to compare year over year visits to these retail locations and create an index to visualize the impact of the pandemic and monitor the recovery over time. We began tracking these trends on March 23 and will be providing weekly updates to this data set. Sign up below to get weekly updates.

PiinPoint is committed to supporting its customers and other retail real estate organizations during this time of stress. More than ever, access to data and the digitization of real estate decision making has proven to be critical. As we witness the new demands put on our retail clients, we are also working to support the development of new strategies for location networks; with tools to evaluate location changes and performance, understand the potential of omnichannel, experiment with new operations, and prepare to emerge from the pandemic with a plan for success.

Learn more about how PiinPoint can help your business evolve and thrive.