Foot Traffic in Brick-and-Mortar Stores Slows in First Quarter

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Foot traffic inside U.S. brick-and-mortar stores fell by 4.2 percent from the first quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023 as inflation continues to impact consumers’ pockets, according to a report from analytics firm Placer.ai.

Grocers and superstores saw some of the biggest declines in visitors in the first quarter, with a 4.3 percent drop compared to the same time last year, according to Placer.ai. That’s a slowdown from their strong performance during the pandemic when foot traffic peaked in August 2021 13.3 percent higher than in August 2019, according to Placer.ai. 

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Placer.ai attributed the drop to higher consumer prices, which rose 5 percent in March, and said the higher cost of goods has been hitting grocery stores hard.

“The category has experienced particularly steep price increases, and as inflation replaced COVID as consumers’ primary concern, grocery traffic fell,” the report said. “Some of the traffic decrease is due to the success — and the unique behaviors — these sectors [saw] last year.”

Superstores also saw 4.1 percent fewer visitors in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of 2022, while malls recorded 3.1 percent fewer patrons during that same 12-month period. 

But not every retailer saw drops. Visitors still flocked to gyms, which saw an 18.7 percent increase in foot traffic in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2022, according to Placer.ai.

Meanwhile, foot traffic at discount stores, which dominated retail leasing last year, increased 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022. And Placer.ai expected chains such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General and the Family Dollar to see consistent foot traffic into 2023 given a potential economic recession as shoppers look to save money.

“The sector’s success in maintaining its pandemic-era visit gains despite the volatile economic environment indicates that discount and dollar stores are now embedded in many consumers’ regular shopping routine,” the report said.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.