Chicago The upcoming presidential election and recent financial crisis are keeping consumers at home rather than shopping at malls, according to ShopperTrak RCT, a provider of retail intelligence solutions and services. Although consumer confidence is shaken, ShopperTrak reported that declining mall traffic during an election year is somewhat expected.
An analysis of enclosed-mall shopper traffic patterns during the last three national elections indicates that shopping activity tends to lessen as Election Day approaches and shoppers focus on the election and its results.
In 2002 the country was in a recession, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 Index were both hovering near record lows during election season.
The ShopperTrak report also noted that enclosed mall traffic averaged a 2.8% year-over-year decline each week in the month preceding the 2002 election. During election week, traffic declined 2.4% as compared to 2001.
In the weeks following the 2002 election, enclosed-mall traffic remained sluggish, averaging a 3.9% year-over-year decrease all the way through the holiday shopping season.
In the 2004 presidential election, as the country was in the midst of an economic recovery, traffic numbers fared slightly better, but still trended down during election week and showed just a moderate increase in the weeks following the election, the report said.
According to Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, the 2008 presidential election season most resembles both the economic conditions and holiday calendar seen in 2002, which could indicate a steady traffic decline this year.
“We anticipate malls and stores will experience a noticeable decline in shopper traffic during the upcoming election season as shoppers focus on both the election and the poor state of the economy,” Martin said. “In addition, without any positive economic news, we expect declines in traffic throughout the holiday season—an event which drew over 9.66 billion shopper visits to retail stores and malls in the United States last year. So, based on this, even a 1% drop in traffic could mean 96.5 million fewer visits to stores and malls in 2008.”