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April 4, 2024

Placer.ai: Shopping Mall Traffic is Recovering from COVID

Posted In: Retail Articles

Shopping mall foot traffic is nearing pre-pandemic levels, but not all dynamics of such activity are the same, according to a report from traffic tracker Placer.ai.

In the paper “The Comeback of the Mall in 2024,” Placer.ai states that during 2023, visits to indoor shopping centers were down 5.8% compared to 2019, but that’s a dramatic improvement from being down more than 15% in 2021, the traffic tracker maintained. Similarly, open-air shopping center foot traffic was down only 1% last year compared to 2019. Visits for the shopping center industry at large were down 2.3%, but foot traffic might improve this year, Placer.ai concluded. 

Visit distribution during the week has remained stable, but the hour visit distribution has shifted, according to Placer.ai. The relative share of mall shoppers visiting malls on weekdays versus weekends remained stable between 2019 and 2023. Shoppers, the evidence suggests, are taking advantage of flexible work schedules to make more afternoon trips to malls while making fewer morning and late-evening visits. 

Experiences are key in driving mall traffic, Placer.ai asserted  Adding entertainment or dining options is building momentum and attracting crowds. When Scheels, a retail chain with stores that combine sporting goods and entertainment operations, opened in an Arizona mall, visits jumped and remained high for the following months, according to Placer.ai. Other malls received visit boosts following the additions of new dining and entertainment options, such as Texas Roadhouse and Main Event, indicating shoppers are responsive to many kinds of retail. 

Pop-ups are another traffic driver. When Shein opened a pop-up from December 15-17, 2023, at the Woodfield Mall in Illinois, visits not only jumped significantly compared to the December daily average but also matched those of the most important retail event of the month, Super Saturday, which coincided with Christmas Eve Eve on December 23.

Luxury is winning everywhere, especially in the Sunbelt States, according to Placer.ai. Malls are adding high-end and designer stores at a rapid pace as demand for luxury goods has taken off. Sunbelt States such as Texas, Florida, and Arizona, all of which experienced influxes of wealthy newcomers, are seeing some of the strongest luxury mall visit patterns, Pacer.ai indicated. The Lennox Square Mall near Atlanta, for example, saw a sales increase of over 30% year over year in 2023, while shopping centers in the state as a whole only gained a couple of points in the period.

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