Mall owners have been eager to fling open their doors as shutdown orders lift in select states, but shoppers appear less eager to visit them.
Many malls, which had been closed since March to curb the spread of the coronavirus, began to reopen in early May, but traffic at the reopened centers remained at historic lows in the days after they opened, data from Placer.ai shows.
Traffic was down 79.2 percent on average at eight malls in reopened states relative to the same period in 2019, according to Placer data through May 11. The best performing of the group was Haywood Mall in South Carolina, owned by Simon Property Group, which saw a 63 percent decrease relative to last year.
SPG opened 49 malls in ten states in the first few days of May, while another mall giant, Macerich, had reopened 20 shopping centers as of May 19, with plans to reopen 35 more by the end of May, as CO reported.
The Placer.ai data showed that the number of shoppers increased as the month progressed at a growth rate of 2.4 percent, indicating that the recovery is slowly gathering momentum. Though a granular look at the data shows there were mixed results at the eight malls, which are located in eight of the states that reopened, including Texas, Indiana, Georgia and Tennessee. At Haywood Mall in Greenville, South Carolina, traffic decreased for two consecutive days, then jumped 31 percent on May 11, while the Mall of Georgia in Buford, Georgia saw two days of smaller declines followed by a two percent increase on May 11.
However, it’s important to note that most of the malls that reopened did so with limited hours, and not all businesses have resumed, with many restaurants, retail stores and movie theaters remaining closed by choice, or in compliance with state rules. SPG, for example, said they would keep limited hours to allow for overnight cleaning, limit the number of visitors at a time, and comply with state-by-state regulations. That lines up with the data, which shows that visit durations have been shorter than average and the distance from which shoppers traveled was shorter as well. At West Town Mall in Knoxville, Tennessee, the best performing mall on these metrics, both visit durations and drive time dropped by roughly 25 percent.