Over a year after reopening, foot traffic at New York City shopping malls is still below 2019 levels throughout the city. Locally, retail traffic was down 32% compared to 2019 at Hudson Yards and down 35.5% at The Shops at Columbus Circle, according to new data we obtained from retail analytics startup Placer.ai.

“Major New York City shopping areas were seeing a strong recovery, but a resurgence of COVID cases has had a significant impact on retail traffic,” Placer’s data analysts explained. “An additional impact is likely coming from the end of the summer season that helped boost domestic tourism, even as office commutes remained behind 2019 levels. Should COVID’s effect begin to dissipate as professional commutes to New York City return, autumn and winter traffic could once again rise.”

It’s a little over a year since indoor malls were allowed to reopen. Governor Andrew Cuomo gave NYC malls the green light to open at 50% capacity on September 9, 2020. In addition to typical COVID-19 safety protocols, malls were required to have enhanced air filtration and ventilation systems in place as a condition to their opening. 

The numbers are lackluster at indoor shopping malls throughout the city, as the Real Deal reported. Westfield World Trade Center is down 49 percent and Brookfield Place is down 31 percent compared to 2019. Consumer activity is doing much better streetside. Rockefeller Center traffic is down 47 percent but, overall, retail in the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District is up 65 percent. It’s a similar story in SoHo, where consumer activity is up a whopping 115 percent. 

Prior to its reopening, Hudson Yards suffered a huge loss when flagship store Neiman Marcus shuttered last July. At the time, the future of retail looked especially precarious and developer Related was contemplating replacing the anchor tenant with office space. The nearly 200,000-square-foot space remains open.

Hudson Yards is working to get more footfall with innovative events and installations. Most recently, they hosted CowParade — and starting later this week they will launch a new immersive floral show, Fleurs de Villes ROSÉ, at the shopping center.

Retail traffic is down 32% at Hudson Yards compared to 2019. Photo: Phil O’Brien

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