Once on death’s door, suburban shopping malls are getting a second chance at life as coronavirus pandemic-fatigued shoppers return in search of retail therapy.
New data from analytics firm Placer.ai shows mall traffic at some of the nation’s top 50 U.S. malls rose 86% year-over-year in March 2021. Placer.ai develops mall metrics by pinging mobile data devices at 50 top-tier malls and using that information to detect traffic patterns.
After a 58.7% decline in mall traffic at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, mall traffic last month was down only 23.9% from March 2019, marking the lowest drop in traffic experienced since the pandemic began, Placer.ai said.
The tide appeared to turn in February and March as more Americans obtained coronavirus vaccines and pandemic restrictions loosened. Mall visits tracked by Placer.ai between the months of February and March 2021 jumped 43.6% in the U.S., showing a rise in pent-up demand and a hunger for suburban escapes.
While malls, particularly those in the bottom tiers, are not out of the woods just yet, an influx of new residents to the suburbs and aging millennials fleeing inner cities have mall operators and news outlets predicting a renaissance of sorts for some indoor shopping destinations.
Simon Property Group CEO David Simon has gone on the record suggesting a silver lining to the pandemic, as more inner-city residents rush to the suburbs, giving malls a golden opportunity to attract new shoppers, RetailDive reported.
Placer.ai warns a revival at top malls doesn’t mean the sector is safe from pain, but the data does show some customer loyalty in the wake of the pandemic.
“[It] does mean that top tier malls throughout the country still have exceptional strength,” Placer.ai’s Ethan Chernofsky wrote. “Their continued capacity to rebound quickly when given the opportunity speaks to the continued strength in the sector, and explains why the format still deserves its lofty position within the retail landscape.”