About the Mall Index: The Index analyzes data from 100 top-tier indoor malls, 100 open-air lifestyle centers (not including outlet malls) and 100 outlet malls across the country, in both urban and suburban areas. Placer.ai uses de-identified location information from a panel of tens of million devices and processes the data using industry-leading AI and machine learning capabilities to make estimations about overall visits to specific locations.
Mall Visits On the Rise
Following a rocky start to 2023, the latest mall foot traffic data suggests that a retail recovery is taking place. After four straight months of year-over-year (YoY) visit declines, indoor malls, open-air lifestyle centers, and outlet malls all saw their YoY visits rebound significantly in June 2023. Traffic to Indoor Malls were on par with June 2022 levels, while Open-Air Lifestyle Centers and Outlet Malls received YoY visit bumps of 2.6% and 2.3%, respectively.
Month-over-month (MoM) visitation patterns also provide a reason for optimism. Last year, MoM visits fell between May and June for indoor malls and open-air lifestyle centers, and remained constant for outlet malls – likely because May has more calendar days and special events, including Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. But this year, visits to all mall categories analyzed were up in June relative to May 2023 – another sign that a recovery is on the horizon.
Shoppers Dedicating More Time to Each Mall Visit
In another encouraging sign, median dwell times are continuing to stay up. In June 2023, indoor malls, open-air lifestyle centers, and outlet malls saw a 6.8%, 5.4%, and 11.5% YoY increase in median dwell time, respectively. For indoor malls and outlet malls, this marked the largest YoY increase in median dwell time all year, while open-air lifestyle centers saw the largest YoY increase in median dwell time since January 2023 – when the comparison to an Omicron impacted 2022 was felt.
So even as the YoY visit gaps narrow and MoM visits grow, consumers are still dedicating more time to each mall visit – which allows them to get more shopping done with every trip.
All this indicates that the tide may be turning on the recent retail challenges, with consumers gearing up to spend again after months of holding back. If the positive visitation trends continue and median dwell times remain high, H2 2023 is likely to bring substantial relief to the retail space in general and to malls in particular – just in time for Back to School and holiday shopping.
Zooming into Open-Air Lifestyle Centers
Although June 2023 brought marked improvement to the visitation trends of all mall categories analyzed, looking back on H1 2023 data highlights the particular resilience of open-air lifestyle centers. While overall H1 2023 visits to indoor malls and outlet malls remained dropped slightly relative to the same period in 2022, traffic to open-air lifestyle centers increased 2.7% in the same period. And diving deeper into the location intelligence data reveals which consumer segment is fueling this strength.
Successful Open-Air Lifestyle Centers Attract High-Income Shoppers
Analyzing visitor demographics for some of the top performing open-air lifestyle centers from across the country indicates that affluent shoppers are driving visits to this category. In H1 2023, YoY visits to the Oxmoor Center in Louisville, KY, Patriot Place in Foxborough, MA, Bradley Fair in Wichita, KS, Redmond Town Center in Redmond, WA, and Promenade on the Peninsula in Rolling Hills Estates, CA grew between 9.7% and 33.1%. And during the same period, the median HHI in the captured market of the shopping centers’ trade area was higher than both the median HHI in the centers’ potential market and the statewide median HHI.
A mall’s potential market consists of the areas where visitors to the mall reside, weighted according to the population size of each Census Block Group (CBG) of the trade areas. The captured market consists of the areas where visitors to the mall venues reside, but weighted according to the actual visit share to the mall from each CBG.
A higher median HHI in a mall’s captured market relative to the potential market means that a disproportionate share of the mall’s visits come from relatively high-income households. And the comparatively affluent clientele of many open-air lifestyle centers may in turn explain the category’s relative strength, since this segment is likely not as impacted – though potentially more drawn to the value many outlet malls are oriented to – by the current economic headwinds as other consumer profiles.
Looking Ahead to H2 2023
As inflation begins to cool and with retail foot traffic rallying, malls appear poised for a strong summer. And with the warm weather encouraging outdoor recreation, open-air lifestyle centers – which have already pulled ahead of the pack – may well continue to outperform their peers.
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