After months of quarantine, shoppers are increasingly restless, and desire to return to something resembling a normal summer. Over the past several weeks, we have seen the American economy begin to open back up. While tourism remains heavily impacted, malls that are not dependent on tourism for foot traffic are seeing recovery. After months of home schooling, working from home, home cooked meals, home theaters and home improvement projects, many shoppers are simply excited to be out of the house. In May, clothing retailers rebounded almost 200%, as reported by the NRF. Jessi Felts, a store manager at Kate Spade in St. Louis, said, “Shoppers are visiting the store to make purchases just to get out of the house. We are seeing shoppers coming to the store to try on and buy products that have been on our e-commerce site for weeks. They simply wanted to buy it in person to get out of the house. Coming to the mall is exciting right now.”
Even with a strong May giving retailers a spring in their step, year over year sales are still down 10.5%, and many retailers are adjusting by reducing headcount.
Many retailers and mall owners were experiencing hardships prior to the pandemic. Because some malls and stores are already low on cash, they may be forced to close their doors for good. Even if these retailers were not major drivers of foot traffic before, seeing vacancies in the mall puts a dark cloud over the consumer experience.
While retail stores were closed, many retailers turned to their ecommerce sites for revenue. During this time, they often ran double promotions or ran their most popular promotions for longer periods. This promotion-mania has left consumers feeling unimpressed by the scaled back “pre-pandemic” style promotions that retailers are resuming. Once the novelty of returning to the malls wears off, it may be “struggle as usual.”
While foot traffic numbers still are not back to pre-Covid-19 levels, malls are showing life again as they continue to fight for survival. In the end, the fight for survival could provide an outlet for innovation as malls look for new tenants.