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06/14/2021

The Post-Pandemic Retail Recovery Continues

Malls and retailers are rebounding as consumers are feeling more confident.
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Shoppers on street

That’s according to recent data from Coresight Research and Placer.ai, which both show improving shopper metrics and predict the back-to-school shopping period later this summer will be positive for the industry. 

The number of shoppers avoiding malls has dropped, but still represents a portion of consumers. As much as 36% of shoppers are still avoiding malls, according to Coresight’s most recent U.S. consumer survey. While that’s significant, it’s down 14.5 percentage points from two weeks earlier, indicating retail is rebounding. 

And there’s more good news for retailers in malls, with a 358% increase in year-over-year visits in May, after a more than 2,000% increase in April, according to Coresight’s analysis of two major US mall-based department store chains (as a rough proxy for malls). Coresight used foot-traffic data from location-based-data company Unacast for its analysis. Comparing foot traffic to 2020 doesn’t give a full picture, since April 2020 was in the heat of COVID-19 lockdown measures in the U.S. In May 2021, total tracked mall visits “down by one-half versus the comparable pre-crisis period of May 2019,” Coresight reported. 

However, the holiday weekend for Memorial Day showed other improvements and promising signs for the retail industry--at least, for some retailers. The improvements appeared to be uneven, according to recent data from Placer.ai, with some brands reporting growth and others seeing declines in visits. 

Over a five-day period from Thursday May 27th through Monday May 31st, mass retailers Target, Ulta and Burlington saw visits increase 6.6%, 15.0% and 8.3%, respectively, compared to the same period in 2019, Placer.ai reported. Other brands, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, HomeGoods, Macy’s and Nordstrom saw declines from the Memorial Day weekend period in 2019. 

One takeaway from the data: There is still some uncertainty and inability to predict shopper behavior.

Over Memorial Day weekend in late May, visits to stores were actually up 0.9% on Sunday of the holiday weekend compared to the same day in 2019. Thursday and Friday reported visits were down 2.8% and 2.5%, respectively. Surprisingly, there was an 8.2% decline in visits on Monday on the holiday, compared to 2019. 

“The shifts suggest that certain pandemic driven adjustments are lingering and having ‘difficult to predict’ impacts on retail foot traffic and performance,” Placer.ai’s report reads. “This unexpected foot traffic pattern serves as an important reminder that while some trends can be effectively spotted, others are likely to provide a more diverse range of outcomes.”

When compared to the three weeks prior to Memorial Day visits, many retailers saw “marked improvement,” according to Placer.ai. 

The May data all come before a series of sales days planned for July. Amazon has scheduled its Amazon Prime Day on June 21-21, while Target has launched a competing Deal Days from June 20-22 and Walmart is holding a Deals for Days promotion from June 20-23.