When Retail Dive published a glowing review of the Boston Seaport, it caught our attention for several reasons. Firstly, the perception of a rise in attention for the shopping destination certainly begs for checking up with data. Secondly, the makeup of the Seaport’s retail mix is incredibly important to analyze as it combines a group of ‘new to physical retail’ DTC brands and experiential elements that could define the future of shopping centers.
So how is the location performing?
Growth to the Seaport
Since the start of 2017, the Boston Seaport has seen strong growth with visits that rose from a daily average of nearly 34,000 to well over 40,000 daily average visits in 2018 and 2019. July and August of 2017 were 12.6% and 5.4% above the baseline for the period respectively while these numbers jumped to 28.7% and 34.1% for those same months in 2018 and 22.2% and 27.4% in 2019.
Though there has been a small decrease in the summer peak from 2018 to 2019, the overall sustainability may actually be improving. The period from December 2018 through February 2019 saw a 14.5% increase in visits from the same period a year prior. This is especially important as the most significant dip in visits comes just as the New England weather gets especially bad.
This creates an added opportunity to attempt to leverage a holiday season that is not currently a primary driver for Seaport visits - something seen clearly when breaking traffic down to weekly visits. The average shopping center tends to see major peaks in the holiday season around Black Friday and the week before Christmas. Yet, the lack of those peaks - the Seaport’s regular bumps tends to come in February and August instead - creates a potentially huge opportunity for continued growth.
Long Term Appeal
And the combination of the right retailers and the right experiences isn’t just driving visits, but meaningful ones. The average visit duration is over four hours with 47.3% of visitors spending over 150 minutes.
This is further reinforced by the huge size of the Boston Seaport’s True Trade Area which boasts an enormous reach even when filtering for visitors who have been there 3 times or more during this period. In fact, over 79% of visitors come from over 5 miles to visit. These traits all come together to help the Boston Seaport rank in the top 1% for its category nationwide.
The Boston Seaport has established itself as one of the most exciting shopping centers in the country with a unique ability to drive visits over time and sustain the interest of those visitors. As locations like this grow in popularity, there will be an inevitable increase in other sites looking to recreate that magic.
What might this mean for the wider retail landscape? Firstly, experiences play a critical role in the rise of new shopping centers, and these elements are going to increasingly come into focus for the wider benefits they provide. Secondly, new retailers are rising and this trend could fill the gap left by some of the larger retailers experiencing large scale closures. The entry of new players into the offline retail landscape offers a powerful opportunity to reinvigorate shopping centers, but will also set an example for other small to medium retailers on this potential pathway to creating impact.