With COVID-19 vaccination campaigns now in full swing, more Americans are getting out and about again, and many are returning to once vacant indoor malls.
Foot traffic data from the retail analytics firm Placer.ai shows that visits to 50 major malls in the U.S. rose by 86% in March compared to one year ago.
Of course, March 2020 was when the pandemic first began to spread like wildfire in the U.S., and so a better comparison for last month’s data might be with March 2019. Compared to that month, foot traffic in U.S. malls is down 24%. Nevertheless, Placer analyst Ethan Chernofsky said in a blog post that March foot traffic was 44% greater than in the previous month, February, and indicates that a “return to the malls is in full swing.
Chernofsky said he is confident that malls will enjoy a strong revival this year, noting that visits during the week of March 15 to March 22, were 19% higher than they were just two weeks prior.
That’s good news for mall operators and the stores that ply their trade inside them, Chernofsky said. He pointed out that shopping malls have struggled more than most in the retail sector since the pandemic hit home. In some states, such as New York, malls were closed for the majority of last year. On Black Friday 2020, which is typically the busiest shopping day in the year for malls in the U.S., visits were down by 52.1% compared to the year before.
At the same time, Chernofsky said, online sales surged to record highs as most people made their purchases from the safety of their homes.
Shopping malls still face a long road to recovery, but Chernofsky said that “top-tier malls” across the country are showing exceptional strength.
“Their continued capacity to rebound quickly when given the opportunity speaks to the continued strength of the sector, and explains why the format still deserves its lofty position within the retail landscape,” the analyst said.