Even with a pandemic still in the way, shoppers gotta shop.
Domestic retail visits in the New York City area nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels during the week of March 29, down just 2 percent compared to the same period in 2019. That’s the strongest weekly result since the onset of the pandemic, according to new findings from Placer.ai, which tracks anonymized data from 30 million mobile devices across the country
The data indicates a speedy recovery in recent months. The week of Feb. 15, for example, still saw visits down 18 percent.
The data does not include international cell phones, so the report does not touch on foot traffic from outside the U.S, but an increase in domestic migration may be assisting retailers. In March, Manhattan experienced a 5.2 percent year-over-year increase in net migration. Though migration was still 7.6 percentage points below 2019’s levels, the data suggests that the great NYC exodus may be drawing to a close.
The gradual reopening of adjacent facilities is likely also a factor. In mid-March, restaurants in the city and in New Jersey were able to expand capacity to 50 percent. Restaurants on Long Island and in Westchester County are now operating at 75 percent capacity. Additionally, offices and other facilities got the green light to ease restrictions this week.
But it’s not all good news. New York City continues to rely heavily on international tourism, and, of course, tourists’ money. A report by the Times Square Alliance using data from Visa found that, in the second quarter of 2020, there was a 94 percent decline in spending in the typically tourist-heavy area. Overall, New York City experienced a 98 percent decline. NYC & Company, the city government’s official tourism arm, predicts that just 36.4 million people will visit the city in 2021, down from a record 66.6 million in 2019.