A widely held sentiment two years ago was that the pandemic would hasten the end of the shopping mall. However, a new whitepaper from Placer.ai, Mall Deep Dive 2021 Yearly Review, refutes that belief: “it seems that a year without shopping centers has instead reinvigorated consumer demand.”
Diving into location data for 100 indoor malls and 100 major outdoor outlet and lifestyle centers, Placer.ai found that malls “have once again proven their resilience and relevance despite the serious obstacles that stood in the way such as new COVID variants and supply chain challenges. Consumer behavior trends indicate that shopping behavior is finally stabilizing, and foot traffic data shows that visits are bouncing back, with some months in 2021 even exceeding 2019 visit levels.”
At the beginning of last year, consumers showed a clear preference for outdoor, bargain-focused outlet malls. Non-outlet open air shopping centers also outperformed indoor malls as consumers avoided enclosed spaces and due to the lingering impact of restrictions in certain areas. However, as 2021 progressed, “vaccination rates climbed, and unemployment rates fell, shoppers began feeling more comfortable spending extended amounts of time indoors with others,” according to Placer.ai.
By June, indoor malls had caught up, and the different mall types saw very similar foot traffic trends throughout much of the summer. Although the Delta variant did set the mall recovery back slightly, the extended holiday shopping season brought visits right back up, and the push towards earlier holiday shopping was so successful that October ended as the only month of 2021 where visits to all three mall types exceeded 2019 levels. Although visits dipped again in November – likely due to the decline of Black Friday – Y-O-2Y visits climbed back up, and December saw a 33.3% monthly gain in foot traffic
“So even if this year’s peaks were slightly lower than they had been pre-pandemic, 2021 consumers maintained the basic seasonality of the retail calendar,” the whitepaper states.
Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces.
Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications.
Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).
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