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Solar eclipse: How will it affect shopping patterns?

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By: Daniel Rogers, Director, Data Science
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On Monday, April 8 a total solar eclipse will be visible from a large portion of the United States. How will it impact shopping patterns at Kroger stores? Our Forecasting Center of Excellence team wanted to find out. So, we dug into the data.  

The “path of totality” (a 115-mile-wide band from which the total eclipse is viewable) passes over 351 stores beginning in Texas and ending in Ohio. Hundreds of additional stores are within only a few miles of this path. 

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The period of totality (during which the moon covers the entire sun and creates a period of darkness) will last for 4.5 minutes in the Texas stores and fall to 3.5 minutes for stores in Ohio. A partial eclipse (during which the moon covers only part of the sun) will occur for about an hour before and after the period of totality. The first stores in Texas will experience totality around 1:30 PM CDT and the last stores in Ohio will experience it around 3:15 PM EDT. 

The last total eclipse occurred on Monday, August 21, 2017. During that event, we saw large impacts in stores near the path of the eclipse, including increased sales the weekend before and decreased sales the day of the eclipse. Many people traveled from out of town to locations on the path of totality. This resulted in notoriously long traffic jams (10+ hours) that made it harder to shop the stores. In anticipation of this, locals shifted some shopping to the weekend before the eclipse. 

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While some stores experienced below-average sales, most stores near the path of the eclipse experienced an average sales increase of 8% for the Fri-Sun weekend prior to the eclipse. Stores nearest the eclipse experienced sales 34% lower-than-average on the Monday of the eclipse,likely due to traffic jams.   The largest sales increases were in commodity 816 CAMPING (+294.4%). This was mainly due to sales of special glasses for viewing the eclipse. Other commodities with significant increases were:   

  • CORN (+86.2%) 

  • GRAPES (+79.7%) 

  • ICE (52.8%) 

  • TURKEY GRINDS (+40.7%) 

  • PEPPERS (+39.3%) 

  • SPECIALTY CHEESE (+25.3%) 

  • FRESH CHICKEN (+25.2%) 

  • NF FITNESS (+24.9%) 

  • HUMMUS/SALSA/DIPS (+24.8%) 

  • WATER (+24.2%) 

  • ICE CREAM (+21.5%) 

These commodities suggest an increase in the types of foods people would take to a picnic or planned outing, including snacks, drinks, and ice.  Happy (but safe!) viewing!  

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Daniel Rogers, Director, Data Science
Daniel Rogers leads 84.51°'s Forecasting Center of Excellence data science team. The team supports multiple forecasts that are critical to Kroger's planning and operational capabilities.

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