DATA: Customer traffic doubled at home improvement stores, dropped 90% at sit-down restaurants in Tomball area this spring

The study, conducted by The Retail Coach, tracked the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on retail foot traffic in Tomball by collecting mobile location data from consumers' cell phones, according to the study. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
The study, conducted by The Retail Coach, tracked the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on retail foot traffic in Tomball by collecting mobile location data from consumers' cell phones, according to the study. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)

The study, conducted by The Retail Coach, tracked the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on retail foot traffic in Tomball by collecting mobile location data from consumers' cell phones, according to the study. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)

A retail impact analysis presented to the Tomball Economic Development Corp. on Aug. 11 shows weekly traffic from Feb. 24-June 29 dropped by as much as 90% for sit-down restaurants in the Greater Tomball area from prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, while weekly traffic at home improvement stores doubled at times during the pandemic.

The study, conducted by The Retail Coach, tracked the early impact of COVID-19 on retail foot traffic in Tomball by collecting mobile location data from consumers' cell phones, according to the study.

The data features retailers, including Academy Sports & Outdoors, Kohl's, James Avery Jewelry, Chick-fil-A, SONIC, Whataburger, H-E-B, Lowe's Home Improvement, McCoy's Building Supply, Chili's Grill & Bar, Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q, Walmart and Target, among others, although small businesses across the city and concentrated in Tomball's historic downtown area were not reflected in the retail impact analysis.

The first coronavirus cases in Harris County were announced March 5, as Community Impact Newspaper previously reported, with Houston-area officials canceling the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on March 11.

As the Greater Houston area began to see the first ripple of COVID-19 precautions in early March, traffic to superstores—Walmart and Target—in Tomball saw weekly visits increase 37% from the weekly average Jan. 6-Feb. 23 of 50,800 weekly visits, according to the study.

Furthermore, grocery stores saw weekly traffic March 9-15 increase 40% from the previous weeks' average at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.


Local school districts and college systems, including Tomball and Magnolia ISDs and Lone Star College-Tomball, announced closures in mid-March that would later extend through the end of the 2019-20 school year, as Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

On March 19, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all restaurant dining rooms to close and all social gatherings to be limited to 10 people. In the weeks following, sit-down restaurants in Tomball saw weekly visits go from 16,184 visits from March 9-15 to about 2,500 visits and fewer March 16-April 12, the study shows. Abbott authorized restaurants to open for 50% capacity May 22 and for 75% capacity June 12.


As restaurants were able to reopen, data for the Tomball area shows weekly visits at sit-down restaurants jumped from 8,049 visits May 11-17 to 9,873 visits May 18-24 at 50% capacity and 14,438 visits at 75% capacity.

However, as coronavirus cases began to again surge across the state, Abbott ordered restaurants June 29 to reduce capacity to 50% capacity. Data from The Retail Coach shows that weekly visits to sit-down restaurants then dropped from 16,241 visits—more visits than the week of March 9-15 leading up to restaurant closures—to 10,797 for the week of June 22-29, the most recent data available.

As stay-home orders were issued and other retail sectors saw a drop in weekly visits, home improvement stores—Lowe's, Tractor Supply Co. McCoy's Building Supply and Sherwin-Williams Paint Store—in Tomball saw weekly visits increase by 10%-100% from the weekly average preceding the onset of the pandemic. Weekly traffic was greatest for the weeks of April 27-May 3 and May 4-10, doubling the number of weekly visits seen on average at home improvement stores Jan. 6-Feb. 23, according to the study.

By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball/Magnolia & Conroe/Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball/Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.