- Foot traffic at U.S. malls and outlet centers together has been gaining since May and is approaching pre-pandemic levels, according to emailed analysis from S&P Global Market Intelligence based on mobile data from Airsage.
- Based on center type and specific locations, the data is more mixed. Outlet traffic in the week ending Aug. 9 was slightly higher than 2019 levels, while traffic to REIT-owned malls was down 15% year over year, according to S&P.
- The analysis also found that foot traffic to Taubman Centers and Macerich centers were the slowest to rebound during the period, with traffic down 25%.
As retailers try to forecast demand going into the holiday season, customer behavior amid the pandemic remains a massive question mark, making it difficult to plan for product and cash needs, and generally making running a retail business very difficult.
S&P provides some needed good news for retail, though within it is a disparity between types of centers. And other data shows lingering declines in traffic. A tracker from another foot traffic analytics firm, Placer.ai, shows that shopping center traffic is still down about 27% year over year, while traffic to apparel retailers — which occupy many of those malls and outlet centers — is down 30%.
Still, according to Placer.ai's tracker, foot traffic in aggregate shows improvement from May and early June and vast improvement over the weeks when malls and retail stores closed during the spring while the country tried to slow the spread of COVID-19.
According to an emailed note, Morgan Stanley analysis of traffic to specialty retail and department stores found that store traffic was down nearly 53% in the first week of August on a two-year stack, while lines seen outside Hollister, Foot Locker and Lululemon during the second quarter had "vanished" in August.
As retail tentatively heads for the holidays, there are plenty of wild cards that could determine the levels of store shopping: federal stimulus (or lack thereof), the rate of COVID-19's spread, school and college openings, and political and economic uncertainty.