The Impact of COVID-19 on Urban Customers: A Case Study on Starbucks

Customer habits have changed significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and mega brands like Starbucks are not immune to the impact of this rapidly evolving time.


Customer habits have changed significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and mega brands like Starbucks are not immune to the impact of this rapidly evolving time. The ability to pinpoint changes in home and work locations of customers enables retailers to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a retail location. Mobile data is helping retailers analyze whether a site location determined pre-Covid is likely to recover post-Covid. To illustrate this point, we scanned the migration patterns of real customers around one of the world’s leading retail brands in a city where foot traffic is the highest, Starbucks in New York City.   

COVID-19 Has Significantly Affected The Home Locations of Starbucks’ Customers in NYC

By leveraging hundreds of thousands of mobile data impressions, we found a striking 7% drop in population among Manhattan’s Starbucks customers. Although Starbucks’ customer base doesn’t completely reflect all of Manhattan residents, our data corroborates the ongoing narrative that a massive number of people have moved out of urban core centers.  You can check out our interactive map below to see where Starbucks customers migrated since Covid.  Click on a city below to see the percent change of Manhattan Starbucks customers.
  • Orange Cities: Have experienced a net loss of Manhattan Starbucks customers since pre-Covid.
  • Green Cities: Have experienced a net gain of Manhattan Starbucks customers since pre-Covid.
We used our proprietary platform to examine where the coffee company’s traffic had gone and found that other highly populated areas around NYC saw a remarkable increase in foot traffic as a result of the pandemic.
  • Hicksville’s customer base increased 25.5%.
  • Nanuet’s customer base increased 44.8%.
  • Jersey City’s Starbucks customer base increased 4.7%.
  • Yonkers’s Starbucks customer base increased 2.0 %.
This change in customer behavior reinforces the zero-sum nature of customer migration: a drop in traffic in certain markets means an increase in traffic in others. The key for retailers is to find out where these deltas are occurring so they can capitalize on new opportunities.   

Retailers Can Benefit from Incorporating Customer Location Data Into Their Decision Making 

Using real-time mobile data to understand how the pandemic has impacted your customer base is critical for determining retail site selection.  We all know that understanding trends in customer traffic is imperative to the success of a retail location. Properly interpreting this data dictates whether a certain site is viable or not. Having a data-driven real estate process that incorporates real-time customer data enables you to find sites that are optimized for profitability, as well as make informed decisions on where NOT to go due to decreases in traffic. Locate is the first tech-enabled retail brokerage that can help you find the best possible locations to open or re-open a storefront, as well as give you the information you need to reach advantageous agreements in negotiations that accurately mirror present externalities and trends.  It’s been over a year since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time to see how your customer base has evolved over time and map a road to recovery.  

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