Are US Commuters Returning To The Office?

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

PlaceIQ says that consumers seem to be pulling back on spending, but the return to pre-pandemic behaviors is generating some bright spots of demand. One example allegedly is surging foot traffic and spending at clothing retailers focused on workplace attire, driven by people equipping themselves for a return to the office.

In their last update, they illustrated how spending is down in nearly every category to make room for increased costs at the gas station. However, this pullback is countered by a desire to get out and do things as the pandemic becomes more manageable. People are going out to visit the things they missed – shopping malls, vacations, and more but they’re spending less.

By zooming down from categories to individual brands, they have identified bright spots in spending driven by a return to pre-COVID norms.

In the clothing retail vertical, visits are up 7% year-over-year but spending is down 19%. However if you look at the individual brands comprising the category, PlaceIQ can identify two additional trends driven by the return to normal.

  • Business attire is back
    • Clothing retailers known for selling business attire – Men’s Wearhouse, Banana Republic, and Nordstrom – are achieving higher visitation and higher spend.
  • Outdoor and Sporting Goods retailers fall behind.
    • Both visitation and spend continue to decline for brands like Academy Sports and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Men’s Wearhouse, the clear year-over-year outlier, is seeing 24% more visits and 44% more spend. People are seemingly heading back to the office and reequipping themselves. Nordstrom validated this datapoint with their Q1 earnings, where they saw strong sales driven by, “customers refresh[ing] their wardrobes for occasions such as social events, travel, and return to office.”

Trends that were strong during COVID have fallen out of fashion. In the clothing sector you can see sports focused retailers falling behind in both visits and spend, which is unique for the category. The great rush to the outdoors that occurred in 2020 and 2021 is receding.

As PlaceIQ’s analysis zooms into the brand level, they believe that a desire to return to normal is affecting demand nearly as much as gas prices. It’s tricky to spot, but they say they can pull out this nuance with PlaceIQ’s ability to analyze visitation and purchase data within the same system.

Consumers are looking for ways to save but pent-up demand is manifesting itself despite consumer’s frugalness. Discovering new behaviors using a combination of visitation and purchase data as consumer patterns evolve enables markers to identify when to engage prospective customers.

PlaceIQ’s new Purchase Audiences define actual recent spenders, backed by visitation behaviors. And, PlaceIQ’s behavioral shift audiences allow you to target shoppers whose recent category activity has increased or decreased so you can follow along with vertical trends (search: PlaceIQ Travel Activity Increasing in your DSP).

Multisource behavioral data, as employed by PlaceIQ as shown here, is the key to finding that nuance within the greater narrative.

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