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.
Tough September for Retail Visits
September was another tough month for malls, as consumer confidence tumbled and many Americans continued channeling their limited discretionary budgets towards services instead of retail goods. The year-over-year (YoY) visit gap to Indoor Malls and Open-Air Shopping Centers widened, following the negative foot traffic trends in the wider retail sector. Outlet malls, which continued to lag behind the other formats in terms of YoY visits, saw their visit gap remain steady.
Is the Dry Spell Easing?
But towards the end of the month, the challenges appeared to be easing. During the last full week of September (September 18-24), week-over-week (WoW) foot traffic increased at Indoor Malls and Open-Air Shopping Centers for the first time since the week of July 31st. And during the week of September 5th to October 1st, WoW visits to Indoor Malls rose once more, while traffic to Open-Air Shopping Centers stayed leveled.
Outlet Malls, where WoW visits during the last full week of September remained steady after six straight weeks of steady dips, saw WoW visit growth between September 5th and October 1st.
Still, these are just two weeks, and looking at the data on a YoY basis shows that visits are still behind 2022 levels. But the WoW increase may indicate that the current difficulties facing the wider retail sectors are moderating, just in time for a critical holiday season.
Labor Day Still Draws Shoppers to Malls
Labor day foot traffic data also provides a reason for optimism ahead of Black Friday. Shoppers came out to all mall formats over Labor Day 2023 weekend, with Monday seeing an especially significant spike.
Outlet Malls saw a 29.9%, 49.2%, and whopping 217.4% increase in visits over the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of Labor Day 2023, respectively, relative to average Saturday, Sunday, and Monday visits in September 2023. This format tends to see the largest visit boosts around promotional events, and Labor Day 2023 showcased once again shoppers’ willingness to drive out for discounts.
Indoor Malls and Open-air Shopping Centers saw more modest increases on Saturday, followed by a 14.0% and 18.1% increase in visits, respectively, on Sunday, Sept 3rd. And on Labor Day itself, foot traffic to Indoor Malls and Open-Air Shopping Centers was 104.7% and 69.6% higher on average, respectively, than it was during the subsequent Mondays in September – another sign that promotional events still have the potential to drive retail traffic.
Critical Holiday Season Ahead
Even though mall visits fell relative to last year and foot traffic throughout September generally remained lower than it had been earlier in the summer, the Labor Day data indicates that consumers have not given up on malls. With many retailers launching promotions in October – and as the holiday shopping moves earlier and earlier into the season – the next couple of months will be critical to understanding where malls stand in the current retail landscape.
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