Springboard’s study of the latest retail traffic in major U.S. downtown areas showed a significant improvement in March, but the company warned of headwinds ahead as several economic trends could impact spending.
The analytics firm said in its report that pedestrian traffic in U.S. downtowns continued to improve in March, coming in down 29.6 percent below the 2019, pre-pandemic level from a reading of negative 34.9 percent in February. “This was driven by a month-over-month increase of 25.1 percent from February, which followed a 20.9 percent rise from January to February,” the report stated.
Springboard said, since January, “the greatest improvement during daytime has occurred over the breakfast and lunch periods (from minus 49.4 percent below 2019 to minus 35 percent during breakfast and from minus 42.6 percent below 2019 to minus 29.4 percent during lunch), reflecting that more employees are returning to their offices.” The company also said there was a boost in foot traffic during the week of St. Patrick’s Day.
Springboard’s data is derived from more than 44 million pedestrian traffic counts a week at 2,160 counting points in 1,100 shopping locations.
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said that despite the strong uplift in March, “this is likely to be the calm before the storm, only offering some short-term good news for retailers.”
“The substantial increase in energy and fuel prices and the concomitant rise in inflation that is forecast over the forthcoming months will put household budgets under increasing pressure,” Wehrle said. “Inevitably, this will mean less disposable income and so some retail spending will be curtailed, particularly as we enter the summer period when many consumers will be looking to reserve budget to spend on much longed for summer vacations.”
Looking at the pedestrian traffic in New York City, Springboard said there were also significant improvements in March with the gains aligned with the U.S. data trends. Similar to the U.S. numbers, the strongest daytime traffic was during breakfast and lunch periods, “reflecting that more employees are returning to their offices.”