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06/07/2022

Placer.ai: Don’t read too much into spring visit traffic declines

Al Urbanski
Real Estate Editor & Manager
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Placer.ai posits that even small increases in mall traffic are a positive sign in this time of $100 tank fill-ups.

A new report from a leading source of traffic data at retail centers found a distinct lag in store visits during April, but blamed peaking gas prices, not waning shopper interest.

Comparing 2022 visits to indoor malls, outlet malls, and open-air lifestyle centers to 2021, Placer.ai’s Mall Index charted mega-double-digit increases for all three sectors in February. Enclosed malls stood out with visitor increases of more than 40%. Open-air came next at 29%, followed by outlets at 26%.

In March and April, however, percentage increases over the previous year at malls settled down into the teens and at just above 10% at open-air centers.  Outlets fell 7% below 2021 tallies in March, however, before rising back into the plus column with an increase of 1.4% customers in April.

But Placer.ai VP of marketing Ethan Chernofsky thinks that, in a time of hundred-dollar tank fill-up, any growth at all at major shopping centers indicates a resilience of consumer demand for the experience. Outlet centers, he notes, are the lengthiest drive, so a slight dip below the line is not momentous.

“The outlet mall experience here tells us we’re in a period marked by the unique effects of rising gas prices,” Chernofsky said. “As these economic headwinds dissipate, top tier indoor malls, open-air lifestyle centers, and outlet malls could be uniquely well-positioned.”

Placer.ai’s Mall Index analyzes data from more than 100 top-tier indoor malls, 100 open-air lifestyle centers, and 100 outlet malls across the country. The company accesses anonymous location information from a panel of 30 million devices and processes use AI and machine learning to make estimations about overall visits to specific locations.