Mardi Gras, one of the most iconic celebrations worldwide, returned to New Orleans after a one-year hiatus and people across the U.S. were joining in on the festivities.

Mardi Gras culminates on Fat Tuesday which occurred on March 1st this year –amidst the lingering of COVID variants, on-going supply chain issues, unprecedented price increases, labor shortages and the largest conventional military attack in Europe since World War II. All of these factors are wreaking havoc on the retail environment.

Yet these dynamics did not diminish Mardi Gras’ effect on shopping trends in National Retail Solutions’ (NRS) network of over 14,000 independent convenience and small format stores nationwide. Overall, during the 5-day period ending on Fat Tuesday, both volume and baskets produced increases of ~17% versus 2021 Mardis Gras in same stores scanning, growth that significantly outpaces year-to date-trends and nearly all top categories reflected a similar strong performance.

CATEGORY Fat Tuesday Weekend
Basket Change
Fat Tuesday % Volume Change Category YTD Basket % Change Category YTD Volume Change Point Change
BEVERAGES 32.3% 30.5% 13.9% 14.5% 16.0
TOBACCO 6.4% 5.8% -2.6% -1.7% 7.5
BEER/FMB/CIDER 16.8% 14.7% 3.2% 2.5% 12.2
SALTY SNACKS 29.5% 25.1% 18.7% 18.7% 6.4
CANDY, GUM, MINTS 31.8% 26.4% 17.7% 17.5% 8.9
TOTAL SPIRITS 9.8% 12.6% 4.8% 8.1% 4.5
SWEET SNACKS 40.8% 35.7% 23.5% 22.3% 13.4
PREPARED FOODS 14.1% 10.4% 19.8% 21.8% -11.4
WRAPS AND TORTILLA SHELLS 5.8% 9.5% 6.5% 9.5% 0.0
DESSERTS 32.8% 29.8% 13.0% 11.4% 18.4

In New Orleans, the NRS Network of stores outpaced the year-to-date trends for the same 5-day period. In same stores scanning, both volume and baskets delivered increases of ~ 41% versus Mardi Gras YAGO.

The top six categories, Total Spirits (+56.8%), Beer/FMB/Cider (+64.5%), Beverages (+73.9%), Salty Snacks (+58.3%) Tobacco (+32.9%), and Candy, Gum, and Mints (+76.6%) also performed better than YTD and the national trend. One category that did not realize growth was wine, down nationally (-4.2%) and in New Orleans (-8.4%), indicating consumers prefer to consume Spirits and Beer and FMBs during the Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras is all about celebrating and consuming copious amounts of food and drinks. Shopping purchasing behavior for urban dwellers during the Mardi Gras weekend reinforced this tradition as the top categories purchased were food and beverages. Clearly, consumers were ready to celebrate and consume more, during Mardi Gras after losing a year due to the pandemic.