Let’s Stop Worrying About Amazon Prime Day’s Impact on Store Traffic

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by Brian Field on 07-31-19

A year ago, we wrote about how Amazon Prime Day didn’t have any perceptible impact on brick-and-mortar traffic. You can read what we wrote here. Another year – and still no change for in-store shopper behavior patterns.

What we thought might have been interesting this year was that Amazon extended the day further this year – from 1 ½ days to two full days. And even more retailers than in past years counter-programmed their own online events to precede or coincide with Amazon’s announced dates. We wondered if this year may have been the beginning of something similar to Singles Day in Asia, where the impact of that November event has an effect on store traffic. And yet…

Below is a graph that shows all traffic activity between the lead-in to Independence Day and the end of the week of Prime Day. We have included all years that Amazon offered Prime Day, plus some additional history to prove our point. Note that Prime Day moves in relationship to July 4th and several of the Prime Day indicator sit on top of each other.

While July 4th moves around the calendar by day of week, note how consistent the succeeding weeks are in terms of in-store traffic. If you look at the two-week periods beyond July 4th, with one Pre-Prime exception in 2014, the patterns are nearly identical. There are no changes in shopper behavior due to Prime Day.

Narrowing our focus to 2019, here is a graph that shows how the weeks surrounding 2019 Prime Day match up when compared by day of the week:

Notice that the black line, which represents the week of Prime Day is completely in line with every other week except for the lead in and out of Independence Day. There is a very slight bump on Tuesday, the 16th, but it’s not significant and certainly less so than the Wednesday before and the Friday after July 4th.

I’ve heard some chatter about how there was a distinct favorability in-store for Prime Day when compared to a baseline. Our data, covering thousands of retailers, would argue against that. The baseline we use considers the day of the week, so we aren’t comparing a Saturday to an average of all days (hint: Saturday would always exceed such a baseline). We think it’s more important to look at shopper behavior for Prime Day on a Tuesday as compared to the other, recent Tuesdays. Based upon our logic, shoppers aren’t more actively visiting brick and mortar stores but also aren’t shying away either. Looking more broadly at QTD year-over-year results, the two days of Amazon Prime are right in line with the rest of that period.

While Amazon and other retailers may have seen an encouraging increase in online sales, in-store shopper behaviors again this year have not been impacted.

With Prime Day now in the rearview mirror, stores can turn their attention to Back-to-School. As we’ve pointed out in the past, within the US there are regional traffic patterns to consider that make this highly anticipated period more localized than national:

  • While the rest of the country’s shopping peaks in NRF week 28, Northeastern traffic peaks several weeks later, in NRF week 31 (Labor Day Week: Sept 1st)
  • While Northeast traffic peaks later, there is a sharp drop-off in week 32 (Sept 8th), making the weeks leading up to and including week 31 all the more critical for East Coast retailers.
  • The Midwest peaks in NRF week 28 (Aug 11th)
  • The West and the South regions peak a week later in NRF week 29 (Aug 18th)

Perceived events, such as Amazon Prime Day, shouldn’t change a brick and mortar retailer’s approach. Following trends from real events, such as back-to-school, are critical to the success of each store.

Read more posts by Brian Field

Brian Field is the Senior Director of Retail Consulting Practice for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak's proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance. Prior to joining ShopperTrak, Brian served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. Brian has spent nearly four decades in the industry, and his experience includes: store sales and management, training, merchandising, strategic planning and analysis for brands as diverse as David’s Bridal, Circuit City and Macy's.