Colorado Retail Sector’s Unexpected Resilience in Face of Damaging Floods | RetailNext

Comprehensive In-Store Analytics


Colorado Retail Sector’s Unexpected Resilience in Face of Damaging Floods

Jaron Abelsohn
Jaron Abelsohn

Colorado residents can be slowed, but not stopped as retailers in affected areas get an unexpected boost from shoppers

Colorado Retail Sector's Unexpected Resilience

The September floods in Colorado caused extensive infrastructure damage, left hundreds homeless, and destroyed thousands of automobiles. According to EQECAT, a consultancy specializing in catastrophe risk modeling, damage to the Colorado economy is expected to exceed $2 billion. Pointing to damage from the floods, a continual slow economic recovery, and shaken consumer confidence from a government shutdown, some forecasters are predicting a slow recovery for the retail sector in Colorado in the near future. While the medium and long term impacts to Colorado’s economy will take months to materialize, it is likely that local retailers will feel the pinch from these factors. The immediate questions for many of Colorado’s small business owners are:

To answer these questions, RetailNext analyzed data from retailers in cities affected by the flooding, including Boulder, Broomfield, Aurora, and Colorado Springs, and cities indirectly impacted, including Denver, Westminster, Lone Tree, Thornton, and Littleton. Data from RetailNext customers in these areas was compared to aggregated same-retailer national data. Metrics analyzed include total traffic, net sales, net transactions, ATV (net sales/total transactions), and conversion ratios (calculated as net transactions/traffic). Our research is summarized below and is also featured on The Denver Post in an article titled, “Colorado Flood-Stricken Retailers Lost Business But Then Rebounded.”


The national data set was a collection over over 450 stores comprising over 16 million shopper visits nationally with about $319 million in net sales (5.6 million transactions). The Colorado data set was comprised of stores located in the Central, Southwest, and Northwest regions of Colorado.

Metrics analyzed included:



Pent up demand from shoppers after disaster in flooded areas
Surprisingly, in the immediate aftermath of the floods the retail sector proved unexpectedly resilient. Even in areas affected by flooding shoppers returned to stores quite soon after the disaster. Department stores received an average of 4 percentage points less traffic then the national average in the first week of the flood. Many of these stores made up for their lost customers by the next week, as midweek traffic was an average of 7 percentage points higher than the national average in the week following the flood. This increase is unusual given the floods timing in the middle of September, and illustrates that shoppers who were kept at home by pelting rains exercised their pent up demand for shopping very soon after the rains abated. Consequently, retailers who lost foot traffic as a result of the flood were able to make up some of the losses soon thereafter.

Shoppers spent more money when they went shopping
As one would expect given the extreme situation, shoppers who managed to make it out to retail stores during the week of the flood felt less inclined to make large purchases. From September 9th-16th average transaction value was 3 percentage points lower than the national average across all stores in the sample set. In the week following the flood shoppers not only came out in larger numbers, but also were more willing to spend. Average transaction value was 4 percentage points higher compared to the national average than the four week average in the week following the major flooding. A special note, we noticed that on days Monday and Tuesday, the ATV was 11 percentage points higher than the national average. The spike in ATV and traffic on the first two days of the second week when the floods subsided leads us to believe that this was due to pent up demands from shoppers eagerly waiting to return to shopping when the storm had cleared. This allowed affected retailers to recover some of their losses from the previous week, and meant that customers coming into stores were spending significantly more per transaction than normal.

After the flood shoppers were more likely to purchase
In the week after the flood, shoppers who ventured out to stores were intent on purchasing something. Conversion, defined as net transactions/total traffic, is a metric which measures how effective a store is at turning a customer that walks into its door into a sale. During the week of the flood conversion percentage was 4 percentage points below the monthly average compared to national average data. In the subsequent week, shoppers who ventured out to shop more intent on purchasing something. Conversion was 1 percentage point lower than the national average, constituting a three percent point rebound from the previous weeks low, and a number of stores had peak conversion days which were higher than any store in the country. Once they got to the store, customers were feeling more inclined to make a purchase.

Days which normally don’t receive high traffic or net sales got a boost
One unexpected result of the flooding is that pent up customer demand meant those in days following the flood which normally are slow days for retailers became relatively big shopping days. Numerous retailers had spikes in net sales on the Monday or Tuesday, traditionally slow retail days, following the flooding. These spikes ranged from 12-26 percentage points higher than the monthly average. Overall during the week of the flood, net sales compared to monthly average were 13 percentage points below the national average (change over baseline).During the 2nd week, net sales was 2 percentage points below the monthly average compared to national average data. The Monday and Tuesday were 9 percentage points above the national average. Again, this increase in the initial 2 days of the 2nd week was most likely due to pent up consumer demand for shopping.