What can you learn about ecommerce sales driving on the NJ Turnpike?
I took my first business trip since March last week, driving from my office about 90 miles down the New Jersey Turnpike to Philadelphia. The meeting itself was a glimpse into what we might expect for the next year or so — practically no physical interaction (we even collected our lunches one at a time), 10 feet between the tables and two huge monitors connecting us to colleagues from Canada and Europe, who we’d normally be with, organized the same way. There was lots of hand sanitizer.
Back to the trip. In what could only charitably be called a survey, I counted the brand names on the trucks I saw along the way, keeping a running tab on a little notepad. Scientific surveys always state the methodology, so it’s only right that this unscientific one does the same. I traveled to Philadelphia on Thursday morning between 6:00 and 8:00 and traveled back between 2:30 and 4:30. It also rained very hard for about 25 minutes on the way down, which may have lowered the numbers as I didn’t want to get into an accident and stopped counting.
Now the results.
I spotted 61 Amazon trucks, 17 from Walmart, a combined 27 UPS and FedEx trucks, five Costco trucks and three US Postal Service trucks on the way to Philadelphia. Heading home, I saw 67 Amazon trucks, about the same number of Walmart and UPS trucks as before, and a few more from FedEx and Costco. There were 128 Amazon trucks, 35 from Walmart, 28 from UPS, 18 from FedEx and 12 Costco trucks in total for the trip. I didn’t see any Target trucks either way.
As I emphasized, this is far from a proper survey. Target may run all its trucks overnight or use third-party firms. (I saw hundreds.) Other factors like timing, tolls, backhauling and even seasonality likely come into play.
So, what does all this mean?
For starters, it means that Amazon is moving a lot of product on the NJ Turnpike. Also, given that Walmart isn’t as strong in the Northeast as it is in other areas of the country, the lower number of trucks indicates it hasn’t made commensurate ecommerce inroads during the pandemic. Finally, while the majority of the product in Walmart and Costco trucks is destined for stores and only a small portion for digital sales, the exact opposite is true for Amazon, accentuating its online dominance.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which retailers do you think have made the most significant gains based on their ecommerce performance going back to March? What stands out to you about their operational performance?