Early indicators show that the region’s malls performed well over the holiday season even as online shopping continues its rise.
“Traffic was up for the season at both Cherry Hill and Moorestown,” said Heather Crowell, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), which owns several malls in the region. “There was an increase of approximately 4 percent [combined] at these two South Jersey properties.”
Crowell attributed the traffic increase at Moorestown Mall to a better mix of products.
She said foot traffic was up more than 15 percent for the two days leading to Christmas compared with last year at both malls. It was also up during the post-Christmas week, and Black Friday remained the highest traffic day of the year.
“This year it was followed by Friday, Dec. 23, likely a result of the rough weather on Super Saturday [Dec. 17] ’16 and possibly a later Hanukkah, as well,” Crowell said. “We won’t have sales data until later this month, but we’re optimistic that increased traffic and a well-planned shopper led to sales growth.”
At King of Prussia Mall, the East Coast’s largest mall, which is owned by Simon Property Group, bad weather on Super Saturday and a 30-minute power failure on Dec. 18 didn’t deter business.
"We had a strong season," said Kathy Smith, director of marketing and business development at KOP. "The presidential election was a bit of a distraction in early November, yet with the opening of our expansion and the 40 new retailers and restaurants added in 2016, customers had many new reasons to visit King of Prussia."
The early traffic indicators mirror what went on nationally.
The retail trade group International Council of Shopping Centers released its postholiday shopping survey Tuesday, finding that consumers spent an average of $711 on gifts and other holiday-related items this holiday season - a 16 percent rise over 2015’s postholiday survey results ($611) and 4 percent ($27) above holiday shoppers’ intentions that were measured in October 2016.
“Consumer confidence continued to improve into December and we saw this optimism reflected in the holiday spending numbers,” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of the ICSC.
In total, consumers spent an average of $897 on gifts and related items, dining, movies, and other entertainment experiences at malls and shopping centers this holiday season. Gen Xers spent the most, averaging $1,000, followed by baby boomers ($875) and millennials ($867).
Almost 70 percent of total holiday-related expenditures occurred in stores with both a physical and an online presence. Further, the physical store proved paramount to the shopping experience again this year, with 91 percent of holiday shoppers spending at physical stores, the same percentage as 2015.
“Consumers have come to expect an integrated experience allowing them to buy products through a variety of channels,” McGee said.
Of those who bought items online from a retailer with a physical store and picked up in store, 61 percent made an additional purchase in person.
“There is no getting around the shifting from the malls to the website,” said D.C.-based Melina Cordero, head of retail research for the Americas for commercial real estate firm CBRE Inc. The shift, she said, is "in where and how consumers shop."
Nationally, “we expect to see a drop in traffic because of the increase in online and an evolution on how that foot traffic is coming to the malls," she said. "It’s more a spreading out over the holiday season vs. a Black Friday spike.
“This is a window of opportunity that retailers really need to be playing up – the window between the last day to be able to order something online and delivered by Christmas and Christmas," she said. "And that window of time that people have no choice but to go to the stores.”
Brenda Jankowski, 55, of Holland, Bucks County, did a combination of in-store visits and online shopping this year, as she has become increasingly comfortable clicking a mouse. “I did more research online this year and popped back to the stores when I needed to touch and feel,” she said Tuesday.
Jankowski said she started her holiday shopping early, too, purchasing her first Christmas gift in October, and later buying two laptop PCs online on Black Friday. Her advice: “Spread it out and be open to making purchases after September.”
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