But the pandemic ended, and many people began to return to shopping centers - though much still has not returned to the way it was before 2020. Today in the Getplace blog we will talk about the specifics of how the post-COVID era was reflected in the statistical part.
How COVID Changed Retail Forever
The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on mall foot traffic, leading to significant changes in consumer behavior and the way people approached shopping. During the height of the pandemic, many countries implemented lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and restrictions on non-essential activities, including shopping. This resulted in a dramatic decline in mall foot traffic as people were advised or required to stay home to curb the spread of the virus.
With physical stores temporarily closed and safety concerns surrounding in-person shopping, there was a surge in online shopping. Consumers turned to e-commerce platforms to fulfill their shopping needs, causing a significant reduction in mall foot traffic. Even as restrictions eased, health and safety concerns persisted. Many consumers were hesitant to visit crowded indoor spaces like malls due to the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This led to a prolonged decrease in foot traffic as people prioritized their well-being.
The economic challenges brought on by the pandemic forced some retailers to close stores temporarily or even declare bankruptcy. This directly affected mall foot traffic, as anchor stores and popular brands became unavailable.
Outdoor Malls Decline Wasn’t Dramatic
Since the beginning of 2021, according to Placer, overall shopping mall traffic in the US has declined by 21%, while outdoor retail space has lost just 8.4% of foot traffic over the same period. Fearful of the risks of getting the virus, people continued to avoid closed spaces after the main phase of the pandemic was over - which is why the traffic recovery curve did not show too optimistic numbers.
There are other factors related to the format of open retail space. Outdoor malls provide a sense of openness and natural ventilation that mitigates concerns about indoor air circulation, fostering a perception of safety. The presence of open spaces and abundant natural light contributes to a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, reducing the feelings of confinement associated with enclosed spaces.
The combination of fresh air, wide walkways, and open storefronts contributes to a heightened sense of well-being and reassurance. Moreover, the outdoor environment enables greater incorporation of green spaces, seating areas, and al fresco dining, enhancing the mall's recreational and social dimensions. This organic blend of shopping, leisure, and natural surroundings fosters a more engaging and stress-free experience, promoting greater comfort and drawing consumers to outdoor malls.
Mid-COVID Supply Chain Crisis of 2021
Starting in February 2021, after the peak of the first and second waves of the pandemic, many people began to return to malls, and shopping boomed. Individual regions hard hit by long lockdowns posted record numbers, up 5% from pre-COVID 2019. By the beginning of 2022, American retail increased by 27.4% compared to January 2021.
The positive trends ended abruptly by autumn, when along with Delta-virus surge the global supply crisis began, and a number of regions (mostly Asian countries), still suffering from the effects of the first waves of covid, delayed deliveries and reduced the production of many goods. According to statistics, by January 2022, foot traffic to shopping centers decreased by 7.7% against the background of 2019.
Inflation, supply constraints, and the Omicron epidemic have complicated all the indicators for the end of 2021, which is why there is even less reason for optimism.
Surprisingly Healthy Black Friday of 2021
After breaking Black Friday records with a 61% gain in 2019, U.S. retail has been booming as government payouts are announced and more incentives to spend emerge. Many industries have bounced back or broken records - 2021 has been a positive year for the industry as a whole, despite gloomy events and occasional slowdowns. The global decline in sales in 2021 compared to 2019 was only 5%.
Rising Gas Prices as a Factor in the Fall in Foot Traffic
Covid was not the only reason for the drop in mall traffic - rising fuel prices caused an increase in food prices, due to which visitors to retail outlets began to shop less often - a drop of 4.3%, and this was the most serious negative signal for retail, not related with covid.
Further fluctuations may well mean that the 2019 retail numbers will not be achieved - at least in the near future.
A full recovery of mall foot traffic is not expected
Despite a number of promising indicators, it is too early to declare a full recovery, judging by the analytical data. Comparison of March 2022 with pre-vided data showed an overall drop in traffic from 9.5 to 15.4% depending on the type of business.
The impact of the pandemic is still being experienced by property owners, who now find it more difficult to receive money from retail space. This is largely due to the fact that increased online competition has shifted the focus from traditional price-performance ratios towards special offers, bonuses and interesting experiences in the process of visiting the store.
To better understand how to promote a business in 2023, please contact us at GetPlace. We provide an easy-to-use, user-friendly business analytics platform that provides up-to-date foot traffic, business intelligence and heatmaps for your city.