While non-essential retailers have closed, chains that sell groceries, household items, and the other things people need during an extended stay at home have thrived. Costco (COST 0.33%), Walmart (WMT 0.27%), and Target (TGT -1.68%) have benefited, but new data suggests the rush may have ended.

"Following several weeks of massive year-over-year visit increases, Costco, Target, and Walmart all saw traffic declines for the first time since the crisis began," Placer.ai, a foot traffic analytics platform, reported. "While Sam's Club still saw a year-over-year increase, it is likely to be as much an indication of the company's overall resurgence as anything coronavirus related."

A closeup shot of a Walmart worker.

Walmart has been one of the chains doing well during the pandemic. Image source: Walmart.

People are stocked up

At some point, even the most prepared person only needs so much toilet paper. When that happens, the need to shop goes away and stores that had been hit hard see traffic pullback.

The data actually shows that the traffic slowdown has been driven by the areas where the strictest rules have been put in place about leaving your home. It's possible, even likely, that people in the hardest-hit areas are stocking up and then not doing as much, or any shopping.

"The positive here is that the data indicates that as the situation improves, and doesn't worsen, consumer behavior tends to return to more normal patterns," Placer.ai reported on its blog. "Should this trend hold, it's a very strong endorsement for those who believe that wider retail activity could quickly return to previous levels should the preventative measures being enacted serve their ultimate goal."

There's no new normal

Once the coronavirus pandemic passes, people will still need groceries. There might be a short-term dip in sales for some items people stocked up on, but other purchases may have been put off, making forecasting short- and medium-term sales difficult.