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03/11/2022

Omicron Slammed Mall Traffic at the Start of 2022

The Omicron COVID-19 variant decreased shopping mall foot traffic during the opening months of 2022, according to the latest mall index from Placer.ai.
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In January, visits to indoor shopping malls dropped 12.2% compared to January 2020. That’s compared to a 3.5% drop in December 2021, versus two years prior. Fortunately, as COVID-19 cases subsided, mall visits began to rise once again by mid-February.

“The rise of Omicron cases drove a major setback to the brick-and-mortar retail recovery in January,” Ethan Chernofsky, Placer.ai’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “Yet, even record-breaking cases proved to drive just a short-lived decline in visits.”

Visits to indoor malls were down 15.5% during the week of Feb. 7, in addition to a drop of 14.2% at outdoor malls and 18.2% at outlet malls, compared to the same week in 2020. However, by the week of Feb. 21, visits were up 8.2% at indoor malls, 2.2% at outdoor malls and 1.1% at outlet malls. That indicates that retail is still strong and mall visits are up over pre-pandemic levels. Compared to January, February mall visits overall were up 0.3%.

“The continued resiliency of visits for malls specifically, is a powerful testament to the continued resiliency of consumer demand,” Chernofsky stated. “It also speaks to the effectiveness of several key trends that have been driving new thinking for top-tier mall owners throughout the country. The combination is a powerful sign of the potential for malls to regain their exalted position as a result of a reimagined understanding of what the mall experience should be.”

The findings also come as consumers are dealing with the highest levels of inflation in roughly 40 years. Recent reports reveal inflation impacts are varied across consumers, with some shoppers feeling the sticker shock for bigger purchases more than others. At the same time, consumer demand has not slowed down––even as prices have risen.