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HomeNewsletterAnalysis: malls reach pre-COVID foot traffic levels

Analysis: malls reach pre-COVID foot traffic levels

Malls have bounced back to pre-COVID-19 foot traffic levels, per a recent analysis of the top performing U.S. indoor and outdoor shopping centers, GlobeSt.com reports. Outdoor shopping malls saw a 2.1% increase in monthly visits in July, compared to the same time period in 2019. Meanwhile, indoor malls closed the gap between 2021 and 2019 to -0.1%. Additionally, month over month visits either went up or held steady—outdoor mall foot traffic went up 20.8% in July from June. Indoor mall visits increased by 10.6%.

“It turns out that malls are much more resilient than many expected, and shoppers’ forced separation from these emblems of American retail seems to have rekindled an old flame,” Placer.ai’s Shira Petrack said in a report that broke down the data. “Visit recovery patterns also emphasize that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ narrative surrounding malls is fundamentally flawed. Top performing centers are regional retail landmarks, and even if there are cases of ‘over-malled’ landscapes, the leaders are still well positioned for long-term success.”

Westfield Garden State Plaza in New Jersey, the Galleria in Texas, and the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall in Arizona comprised some of the analysis’ standout shopping malls, GlobeSt.com reports. These shopping centers recorded increases over 2019 numbers of 3.0%, 6.9%, and 15.9%, respectively. July was the key month for other struggling malls, according to Placer.ai. The report also noted that the next few months will determine if malls can keep attracting shoppers in bigger numbers.

“Clearly, much of this is driven by differences in regional recoveries, but the fact that the overall trend is taking place across the country is an incredibly positive sign,” Petrack said.

Along with foot traffic, malls’ true trade areas—how far shoppers will travel to visit a certain location—are also moving back toward pre-COVID numbers. During the pandemic, malls’ true trade areas decreased as consumers made less shopping trips and settled for the mall closest to their home, according to Placer.ai. True trade area for the 100 malls Placer.ai analyzed was 160 square feet in June 2019 but fell to 146 square feet a year later. True trade area returned to 159 square feet as in June 2021.

“As customers are willing to drive further if it means visiting a ‘better’ shopping centers, malls will need to step up their offerings if they wish to stay in the game and continue to attract customers who are increasing expecting their malls to provide not just shopping, but also a diverse array of dining options, entertainment choices, and services,” Petrack said.

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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