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Placer.ai Mall Index: March 2024 Recap – Malls Rise Again

by 
Shira Petrack
 on 
April 10, 2024
Placer.ai Mall Index: March 2024 Recap – Malls Rise Again

About the Mall Index: The Index analyzes data from 100 top-tier indoor malls, 100 open-air shopping 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. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Year-over-year visits to Indoor Malls, Open-Air Shopping Centers, and Outlet Malls continue to grow. 
  • Fewer visitors across all three formats are treating malls as a one-stop-shop – which may actually serve as a positive indicator of malls’ resilience in 2024.  

Visits to Malls Up for Second Month in a Row 

Shopping centers are making a comeback. Following an unusually cold January that impacted retail visit trends across the country, mall visits increased year-over-year (YoY) in February 2024 and rose even higher in March: Last month, traffic to Indoor Malls, Open-Air Shopping Centers, and Outlet Malls was up 9.7%, 10.1%, and 10.7% respectively, compared to March 2023. 

The positive visitation trends along with the rising consumer sentiment numbers capping off the first quarter of 2024 bode well for retail in general and discretionary categories in particular – and may signal the end of the retail challenges that plagued much of 2022 and 2023.

Comparison to Pre-Pandemic Highlights Mall Comeback 

Comparing Q1 visits to malls in 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024 to Q1 2019 further highlights the positive trajectory of the ongoing mall recovery. The data reveals that the pre-pandemic visit gap has been steadily narrowing over the past four years across all shopping center formats. And in Q1 2024, visits to Open-Air Shopping Centers even exceeded 2019 levels for the first time since the lockdowns – indicating that retail has not yet fully settled into a “new normal” and the post-COVID recovery story is still being written. 

Fewer Consumers Treat Malls Like a One-Stop-Shop 

But even as mall visit numbers may be returning to pre-pandemic levels, analyzing the visitor journey for malls in Q1 2019 and Q1 2023 – which looks at where mall visitors were directly before and after their mall visit – indicates that some mall-based shopping habits have shifted. 

Between Q1 2019 and Q1 2024, the share of shoppers coming to a mall directly from home or returning home directly following the mall visit decreased. And during the same period, the share of mall visitors coming from or going to dining venues or other retail locations before or after a mall visit generally increased across mall formats. The change in visitor journey between 2019 and 2024 indicates that more consumers are now visiting malls as one of multiple stops within a larger outing. 

The fact that consumers are still visiting malls, even if they are no longer treating shopping centers like a one-stop-shop can be seen as another testament of malls’ resilience: Despite the string of big-name retailers expanding off-mall in recent years, shoppers continue incorporating malls into their shopping and dining routines – even as they expand their outing to add stops to off-mall shopping or dining locations as well. 

Consumers Still Want Malls 

Despite the years of mall apocalypse predictions, consumer behavior continues to showcase the central role that malls play in the U.S. retail landscape. And even as consumer habits change, top shopping centers have proven capable at adapting their offerings to current consumer appetites to maintain their relevance in 2024 and beyond. 

For more data-driven retail insights, visit our blog at placer.ai

This report includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection.

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