Malls Make a Comeback: Recapping 2021 Mall Foot Traffic Plus a Look Ahead
The death of malls has been greatly exaggerated. Over the past 2 years, headlines predicting the decline, if not the demise, of malls because of Covid and the associated rise of e-commerce were rampant. Franchisees and landlords alike scrambled to manage shutdowns, negotiate rents, retain employees, and adapt to massively reduced foot traffic. It was a hot mess with no clear timetable or way forward.
Well, think again. Have you driven by a mall recently and seen the parking lot overflowing with cars? Or been inside one, waiting in line as pent-up demand brings shoppers back? If malls could talk, they’d be trumpeting the news, “We’re baaaack!” In mid-2022, a sigh of relief has spread across the land from both businesses and mall owners alike.
Well, all that’s well and good, but let’s look at the data collected in a white paper on the health and performance of malls in 2021. The report from placer.ai, dove into the location analytics of the shopping mall space, focusing on the period from January through December 2021.
According to the authors, “This white paper looks at a variety of shopping center categories and location analytics data sets to understand how malls and mall consumers have changed over the past two years and to identify best practices that will empower mall stakeholders and retailers to thrive in the years to come.”
Filled with in-depth data and graphs, the report offers six takeaways. Download the full report here.
1) Indoor malls and open-air shopping centers have largely caught up with outlet malls.
2) Holidays still drive traffic, but the extended season and the rise of Omicron limited peaks.
3) Even the hardest-hit states are almost fully recovered.
4) Getting creative with mall vacancies can pay off.
5) Digital data can provide insights into brick-and-mortar behavior.
6) Consumer behavior is still evolving.
Beyond the buckets of data presented in the report, here’s a high-level summary from the introduction:
“While some thought that the pandemic would herald the end of malls, it seems that a year without shopping centers has instead reinvigorated consumer demand. Malls have once again proven their resilience and relevance despite the serious obstacles that stood in the way, such as new Covid variants and supply chain challenges. Consumer behavior trends indicate that shopping behavior is finally stabilizing, and foot traffic data shows that visits are bouncing back, with some months in 2021 even exceeding 2019 visit levels.
“And the pandemic has had some positive side effects. Widespread store closures have left open spaces and forced many mall operators to move beyond their comfort zone to bring in art, pop-up shops, and other attractions that connect shoppers with the experiential retail experience that they are increasingly expecting. Some malls have even begun to operate e-commerce platforms, setting themselves apart from their peers and bringing legacy shopping centers into the 21st century.
“This report dives into malls’ tumultuous year from a location analytics perspective. We looked at class A indoor malls, outlet malls, and open-air shopping centers to evaluate nationwide and regional foot traffic trends, analyze the correlation between online searches and mall visits, understand the impact of out-of-the-box tenants, and assess the current state of mall consumer behavior.”
Long story short? “They’re baaaack!” Like data? Find more in the full report.
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