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Consumer Behavior Provides Insight on Retail Market


If you follow me on Linkedin or tune in to my monthly videos, then you’re aware that our team uses Placer.ai – a location data analytics firm. They track and analyze consumer behavior across the United States by assessing foot traffic and consumer spending and can drill down to a single shopping center or specific region.


In partnership with ICSC, Placer.ai released a report about the COVID-19 Impact on Consumer Shopping Patterns (2019-2021). I’ve analyzed the report to see how the pandemic impacted consumer behavior, and if and how that behavior has shifted during the recovery period we’re in now.


A lengthy analysis isn’t needed to give an overview of how hard the brick-and-mortar retail market was hit at the beginning of the pandemic – we all lived through it. Indoor malls were the hardest hit, with foot traffic bottoming out in the second quarter of 2020 at 75% less than the previous year. On the other side of the coin, e-commerce surged at the peak of the pandemic with 74% of consumers making monthly online purchases.


One statistic I found interesting was that consumers shifted their shopping habits to be more purposeful: the length of each shopping visit declined during the pandemic, but consumer spending per visit was and continues to be higher than in 2019. The average spending in a mall shopping trip in 2019 was $246.70, up to $311.30 in 2020 and reaching the highest point of $334.10 in 2021.


According to a recent ICSC survey of consumers, 48% of adults indicated that they expect their pandemic behaviors to fade as the health crisis improves, with 52% of adults indicating that they will engage in in-person shopping activities even more during the recovery period than their pre-pandemic behavior.


We are seeing foot traffic rebound across the country in malls and open-air shopping centers, with 2021 Q2 numbers only slightly below 2019 numbers. In fact, in July of this year, foot traffic surpassed 2019 levels at indoor malls by .9% and grocery-anchored centers by 1.8%.



Consumers are gaining confidence in the recovery and feeling safe at retail centers, resulting in a healthy bounce back to brick-and-mortar shopping. I expect that the shift in consumer patterns of when shopping occurs will remain constant; remote work opportunities are here to stay for employers across the nation, and this allows consumers to not only shop earlier in the day, but also shop more during the week.


Retailers and landlords are also feeling more confident about the recovery, with the expectation that foot traffic will return to pre-COVID levels within the next 12 months. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, e-commerce has not killed brick-and-mortar retailers, and I foresee physical retail remaining an integral part of the consumer shopping experience.

Justin Langlois, CCIM is a Commercial Real Estate Investment Advisor with Stirling Properties servicing Baton Rouge, Louisiana and surrounding markets. Please reach out to Justin to discuss your real estate investment strategies.

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