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08/10/2021

Downtown shopping traffic is still 40% lower than it was in 2019

Al Urbanski
Real Estate Editor & Manager
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Jammed streets are hard to come by with empty offices, but crowds are slowly returning to downtowns.

All hail the home office! All except retailers, that is. 

Though nearly 50% of the United States population has been vaccinated, 53% continue to work at home and not patronize downtown shops. As a result, traffic in downtowns across the nation was 44% lighter last month than it was in July 2019, according to Springboard, a tracker and analyst of brick-and-mortar traffic data. 

The positive take, though, is that the June number continues an upward trend in downtown traffic. Visits were off by 67% in February but climbed to lags of 55% in May and 50% in June. Traffic in the last week of July was 10% higher than it was in the first week, Springboard reported. 

“Pedestrian traffic across U.S. downtowns improved for the fifth consecutive month in July, despite the intense heatwave spanning much of the U.S. alongside an increase in COVID infections,” said Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle.

Retailers have a chance to churn more revenue out of their office-bound customers by giving them reasons to visit their stores in the morning. In July, 50% fewer customers were out and about at breakfast time. During lunch hours, crowds were just 41% smaller than they were two years ago.

The good news for shopkeepers, according to Springboard, is that the pandemic has failed to permanently alter all people’s shopping habits.

“Fifty percent of consumers stated that they haven’t changed when or how often they visit retail destinations from before COVID, which provides a clear opportunity for downtown traffic to bounce back,” Wehrle said.