Black Friday Foot Traffic Proves The Mall Still Plays A Role In Holiday Shopping

The lines have blurred between Thanksgiving’s online and offline sales shopping, with e-commerce now accounting for substantial sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But preliminary results from the recent shopping weekend suggest that malls still have a role to play. Global real estate firm CBRE looked at 14 retail centers across the U.S. and found that foot traffic had improved by either slight or significant margins compared to the same period in 2018.

These results come as many retailers have been pivoting toward e-commerce and mobile sales, while closing stores. But brick-and-mortar retail has remained popular for seasonal shopping; consumers frequently list their preference to test items in person, receive their goods on the same day and reduce additional shipping fees. Rather than detracting from each other, online and offline can work in harmony if retailers are able to leverage cross-channel strategies like click-and-collect.

“E-commerce has changed the complexion of Black Friday somewhat.  In other words, doorbuster promotions don’t always involve a physical door anymore,” said Meghann Martindale, global head of retail research at CBRE. “Shoppers are using both online and brick-and-mortar channels through the full cycle of their purchase, including buying merchandise online and picking it up in-store, and returning to the store items bought online.”

This year, CBRE found that visitor traffic was particularly common in mall locations that have additional amenities such as movie theaters, restaurants and interactive experiences like tree-lighting ceremonies. Without the convenience of online shopping, malls need to offer more incentives to encourage people to visit.

“Better shopper experiences, both in stores and throughout malls and shopping centers, are generating a lot of traffic, as are sales promotions,” said Martindale. “[But] the biggest influence on holiday traffic and spending this year is the strong job market and healthy economy overall.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the holiday shopping period, CBRE’s results suggest that retailers need to do more than just offer programs like “buy online, pickup in store.” Consumers have consistently listed store associates as an important resource during their shopper journey, and Martindale believes that the social experience of visiting a store is a bigger driver today than in previous years.

“Despite the convenience of digital shopping, we have returned to an era where in-store customer service and interaction matters significantly,” said Martindale. “Many still enjoy the tradition and social interaction of hunting for bargains with family and friends at stores on Black Friday, and that showed in the feedback we received from centers we manage.”

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