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Shopping Malls Could See Strong Rebound

April 13, 2021

As more Americans get vaccinated, they’re returning to indoor malls. Recent foot traffic data from Placer.ai, a retail analytics firm, shows that visits at 50 major malls nationwide increased 86% year over year in March. Researchers, however, are quick to point out that last March—as the pandemic ignited across the U.S.—may be an atypical comparison.

Still, foot traffic is down about 24% compared to March 2019, a more normal gauge and the lowest gap in shopper visits the firm has tracked since the pandemic began, Ethan Chernofsky, a Placer.ai analyst, said in a recent blog post. Further, visits between February and March posted a 44% jump, “indicating that the return to malls is in fact in full swing,” Chernofsky writes on the blog.

Chernofsky is confident shopping malls could see a strong revival for the remainder of 2021. Visits for the weeks of March 15 and March 22 saw a 19% jump over the two weeks prior—both weeks marked high points since the start of this year, he adds.

But shopping malls still have a lot of catching up to do. Malls have been one of the most struggling areas in the retail sector since the pandemic. In some states—like New York—malls were closed for most of 2020. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year for malls. But 2020 saw a 52.1% drop in visits to physical stores compared to 2019. Meanwhile, online sales are surging to record highs.

While shopping malls still have a long way to go in their recovery, the top-tier malls nationwide are showing “exceptional strength,” Chernofsky writes at the blog. “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.”

Source: 
Mall Index—March 2021 Update,” Placer.Ai Blog (April 8, 2021)