Placer.ai report: A tough outlook for malls

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Placer.ai report: A tough outlook for malls

By Marianne Wilson - 03/24/2020

Traffic at the nation’s shopping malls was trending in the wrong direction even before states started issuing stay-at-home orders and closing non-essential retail businesses amid the COVID-19 crisis.

That’s according to an analysis by foot traffic analytics platform Placer.ai of traffic at 11 major malls nationwide from January 2019 to March 8, 2020. The malls studied included Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus, N.J.; King of Prussia Mall, King of Prussia, Pa.; Westfield San Francisco Center, San Francisco; The Mall at Short Hills, Short Hills, N.J.; and Galleria Mall, Dallas; and Westfield Southcenter, Seattle. (To see the full report, click here.)

With the exception of Natick Mall, every location showed massive year-over-year declines during the second week of March, the Placer.ai report revealed. Although some malls, such as Westfield Garden State Plaza and King of Prussia Mall, displayed year-over-year weekly growth for the last week of February, the situation changed quickly as the calendar moved into March, where both locations showed decreases of 17.1% and 7.5% respectively

Here are more findings from Placer.ai for mall traffic from January 2019 to March 8, 2020.

•  The Westfield San Francisco Center displayed the most significant year-over-year drop, with a 34.2% decline when looking at the first week of March, year-over-year. San Francisco has been at the forefront of virus concerns, and it was one of the first areas to feel a heavy impact.

• Year-over-year visits during the first week of March for Westfield Southcenter in Seattle, another area that was impacted early on, declined 23.8% alongside impacts in other sectors, even those performing well elsewhere in the country.

• Natick Mall, which showed year-over-year growth for the end of February and early March, recorded a significant 21.2% decline in visits. 

• The Westfield San Francisco Center continued to struggle into the second week of March, with a 46.5% year-over-year weekly decrease, the largest of the malls analyzed. 

• The Mall at Short Hills wasn’t far behind with a nearly 40.0% decrease and Galleria Mall in Dallas rounded out the (unfortunate) top three with a 36.6% decline. 

Here’s the takeaway on the slowdown in mall traffic from Placer.ai:

“With multiple cities beginning to close all non-essential stores, a severe traffic decline is imminent. And, with full lockdowns looming, shopping malls should prepare for a full traffic stop. The challenge here is that malls are such a significant part of the wider retail ecosystem signaling a heavier impact across mall dependent players like apparel, beauty, home goods and more.

“Yet, just as important as their closure, will be their eventual reopening and how quickly they can return customers to these critical locations,” Placer.ai added.

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