During hard economic times, high-income customers have been the mall's salvation.
Did you know that wealthier areas of the United States experienced the greatest growth in mall visits during the first eight months of this year? Or that mall traffic grew during the period in the West, but dipped in the South?
Those two trends were discovered by foot traffic analytics provider Placer.ai in a year-to-date analysis of its Mall Index, an ongoing investigation of traffic patterns at 200 indoor malls, outlet malls, and open-air lifestyle centers in the United States.
Applying Popstats data, Placer.ai found that the average household incomes in the trade areas of those three mall formats outpaced the nationwide median for 2022, and that the HHI’s in their captured markets of Mall Index properties rose higher still.
Open-air centers drew the top-earning customers, with HHI’s of $90,000. Indoor malls and outlet malls followed with customer-wealth averages of $82,800 and $74,200, respectively.
Traffic flows tended to be higher this year in states with higher household incomes such as California, Washington, and Utah. Mall visits in the West rose by 1.7% from January through August. The Northeast, too, posted a 0.3% increase.
In the South, a region which in Placer.ai’s analysis includes fast-growing states like Texas and Florida, traffic dropped by 3.2%. Mall falloff was lower in the Midwest, which includes fewer high-income states than the coasts, but more than the South.
Current economic pressures that affect different states in different ways, however, are most likely playing a significant role in the nature of regional traffic flows, according to Placer.ai.
‘Some of the dip [in the South] could be due to last year’s relative overperformance in the region,” read the analysis. “The drop may also stem from the lower-than-average median HHI in certain Southern states, with inflation continuing to take a heavy toll on lower-income households. Once the wider economic situation stabilizes, these trends may reverse.”
One thing that heats up the traffic across all three mall sectors is the summer sun. Using a monthly baseline of average visits across January through August, Placer.ai learned that visits drop in the winter and rise in the summer.
February declines are the most severe across all mall formats. Outlets endured the harshest drop of 23% during the month, and traffic slid by 13% at open-air centers and 12% in enclosed malls.
July produced the most robust business. Outlets reclaimed their February falloffs with a 24% resurrection from the baseline. Open-air traffic rose by 11% and indoor malls by 9%.