Thanksgiving dinner deadline drives grocery store crowds on Turkey Wednesday

Bigger than the day before Christmas, Easter or July 4th.

While Black Friday has long been the biggest shopping day of the year for department stores, grocers have begun staking their own claim to a different slice of the Thanksgiving holiday week. They call it “Turkey Wednesday.”

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According to data analytics firm Placer.ai, which coined the term, there may not be a bigger day for grocers, who often see an influx of visitors on the prowl for last-minute holiday meal ingredients. Traffic as much as doubles in some stores.

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"While we expected a peak, we didn't think it would so dramatically outperform the day before Christmas, Easter, July 4th or any variety of other notable dates," Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing for Placer.ai, told FOX Business on Wednesday.

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For Publix locations nationwide, Thanksgiving eve has marked the highest traffic day for two years running. Customer visits surged 87 percent above the norm in 2017 and 85 percent higher in 2018, data show.

Traffic at Safeway jumped 78 percent and 76 percent in 2017 and 2018, respectively, beating every other day of the year. Visits at Albertsons surged 102 percent in 2017 and 97 percent a year later.

Supermarkets such as Whole Foods and Giant saw traffic skyrocket, too, though not every chain found Turkey Wednesday its busiest day. It did at least make the top three for both Kroger and Stop & Shop, however.

Grocery titan, Wegmans, was also an outlier. The data showed that Wegmans had the highest number of visits on Dec. 23, "vastly surpassing the pre-Thanksgiving buzz."

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Taking full advantage of such trends requires preparation. Analyzing data to identify peak shopping days gives grocers “an ability to effectively staff stores, and offer the types of deals that will maximize this influx of traffic,” said Chernofsky who added that the brands neighboring the chains will also benefit.

“If I have a coffee chain, a beauty salon or a variety of other relevant locations, I want to make sure that I'm prepared," he said. "Whether it be a discount on coffee or a massage to help make the holiday preparation a bit easier, there are ample opportunities to truly delight customers."

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