There was a shift in visit rates in March as COVID restrictions were lifted again.
April was the strongest month yet this year for indoor malls, open-air centers and outlet malls in terms of foot traffic—but there’s still room for improvement as the retail sector realigns post-COVID.
Foot traffic to these venues returned to growth in October 2021, but was soon stagnated by the rise of the Delta and Omicron variants. Declines persisted into 2022, but weekly data analyzed by Placer.ai marked a shift in visit rates in March as COVID restrictions lifted again.
The Placer.ai Mall Index for top performing indoor malls, open-air lifestyle centers, and outlet malls saw a major decline in the visit gap for all formats in April when compared to March. Specifically, visits to indoor malls were down just 0.3% when compared to the same month in 2019, while open-air and outlet centers had visit gap declines of 4.4% and 4.5% respectively.
The month over month data is even more encouraging. Visits to indoor malls in April rose 17.4% month over month, while foot traffic to open-air lifestyle centers and outlet malls rose 14.8% and 31.6%, respectively, over March numbers. Placer.ai’s Ethan Chernofsky says the Easter holiday “clearly” boosted foot traffic, but says much of the improvement is related to a “growing visit normalization following the initial shock” of higher gas prices and inflationary pressure.
He predicts that if the COVID recovery continues, the coming months could see a big uptick in mall traffic.
“These venues were still feeling the pressure of new challenges when comparing visits to 2019,” Chernofsky says. “The improving visit gaps for open air lifestyle centers and outlet malls in the latter part of April shows the potential that the appetite for a longer trip to ensure a value oriented or single-location retail and entertainment experience could be growing once again. And the timing here is critical. While the relative strength shown in recent months is impressive, especially considering the external pressures, the summer season presents a uniquely powerful opportunity for top tier centers across categories.”