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Mall visits return to near pre-pandemic levels in 2023

Mall traffic continued to return towards pre-pandemic levels in 2023, with open-air centers leading the way.

According to location intelligence and retail foot traffic data firm’s report, “The Comeback of the Mall in 2024,” which analyzed over 3,000 American shopping centers, visits to the wider shopping center industry were just 2.3% lower than they had been in 2019. This is compared to 10.9% in 2021 and 5.9% in 2022, showing continued improvement since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Last year, the visit gaps for indoor malls and open-air centers had narrowed to 5.8% and 1% lower, respectively. Outlet also saw visits increase once again, with the visit gap compared to 2019 narrowing to 8.5% in 2023 after having dropped to 11.3% in 2022.

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According to, non-traditional experiences, new restaurants and “eatertainment” are all factors in driving mall visits back to 2019 levels. As an example, in September 2023, the Chandler Fashion Center in Arizona opened a giant Scheels sporting goods store at the mall, which featured a 45-foot Ferris Wheel and a 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. Monthly visitation data to the mall showed a major jump in traffic to the mall from October 2023 onward, with February 2024 visits 23.3% higher than the same period of 2023.

The Southgate Mall in Missoula, Mont. experienced a jump in monthly visits following the opening of a Texas Roadhouse steakhouse in November 2023. The mall saw a sustained increase in foot traffic from November 2023 onward, with year-over-year (YoY) visit growth of 17.0% in February 2024.

Entertainment destination Main Event opened at Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, N.C. in August 2023, bringing laser tag, video games, virtual reality, and 18 bowling lanes to the center. Main Event’s opening also provided a boost in foot traffic to the mall – monthly visits to Cross Creek Mall surged following the opening, with January and February 2024 seeing YoY traffic growth of 12.3% and 25.1%, respectively.

In addition to non-traditional experiences, new eateries, and unique entertainment, pop-up stores and luxury retailers are also helping drive mall traffic. Fast-fashion brand Shein has enjoyed success with its mall residencies, shown by the foot traffic at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., which hosted a three-day pop-up from Dec. 15-17, 2023.

The retail event was very popular, with visits reaching Super Saturday (the last weekend before Christmas) proportions, even though this year’s Super Saturday coincided with Christmas Eve Eve (December 23rd) and drove unusually high traffic spikes. On Dec. 16 and Dec. 23, change in visits compared to the daily average for the month at the mall was 82% higher than normal.

According to, luxury retailers are expanding their presence at malls, with nearly 40% of new high-end store openings in 2023 were in mall settings, many in Sunbelt states like Texas, Florida, and Arizona. Malls with a high percentage of luxury and designer stores like the Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta and the NorthPark Center in Dallas saw considerably more YoY visit growth than the average visit growth for shopping centers in their respective states. luxury mall traffic 2023
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Lenox Square Mall saw foot traffic increase 31.2% YoY in 2023, while shopping centers in Georgia saw their visits grow by just 2.7% YoY in the same period. Similar trends repeated in Louisiana, Arizona, California, and Florida.

“Malls are thriving, carving out spaces for themselves in a competitive retail environment,” said in the report. “By prioritizing experiential retail, entertainment, pop-up shops, and luxury offerings, shopping centers across the country are remaining relevant in a rapidly changing retail world. And mall operators that recognize the power of innovation and evolve along with their customers can hope to meet with continued success.”

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