Why Target's Foot Traffic Is Hitting Pandemic Lows Yet Again

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Inflation has been stressful for all of us, and those rapidly rising prices are understandably bringing people down. Plenty of customers have been unhappy about "shrinkflation," too, which is when shoppers get ripped off by having to pay full prices for noticeably — or sneakily — smaller packages or portions (via The Balance). Given how high prices have been in every sector lately, we'd initially assume that customers would prefer shopping at retailers like Target, where prices are typically reasonable, good deals are easy to find, and sales frequently happen.


 But data indicates that this may not be the case. According to information collected by SafeGraph, Target's foot traffic score hit an all-time high in the U.S. in mid-December 2019, a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic began; in a single day, Target earned an impressive 2,225,860 unique visits. However, Target then suffered a hit during the early days of the pandemic — just like every other business — getting just 851,585 in-store visits in a single day in April 2020. 

Eventually, the retailer's numbers climbed back up, earning 2,023,224 visits during a single day in mid-December 2021. Nevertheless, this rebound didn't last, and the global chain is seeing lower numbers once more.

Many people prefer shopping online now

Although Target's foot traffic score seemed to bounce back for a bit, the numbers hit another all-time low during the summer of 2022. One day in July, for instance, Target received only 830,252 unique visits. So, what's going on?


Believe it or not, Target isn't the only well-known retailer having this issue. A lot of Zara's in-store shoppers haven't returned after COVID-19 lockdowns, and some once-iconic department stores are finding it impossible to reach pre-COVID highs in foot traffic Thus, it seems that people haven't had the desire to shop in person lately, as the pandemic is still far from over. What's more, while COVID-19 remains an issue, Monkeypox is another outbreak on the rise, per the CDC.

Health-conscious shoppers are likely to prefer shopping online nowadays as this convenient method of buying items helps people get the products they want and need without risking exposing themselves to any viruses or illnesses. Plus, shopping online prevents people from paying rising gas prices if driving is their primary method of transportation. So, it's not so much that people don't want to shop at Target — it's more likely that they just don't want to travel to the actual store. This is accentuated by some grocery chains offering discounts for those who order online or having digital coupons that only work on online orders. You ultimately can't beat this when inflation, too, means your dollars aren't stretching as far as they once were. Plus, some big box stores, like Walmart, are on average cheaper than Target (via Apartment Therapy), offering shoppers cheaper alternatives.