NEW YORK, United States — When Ty Gaskins went shopping in SoHo earlier this month, it was his first time entering a clothing store since the pandemic reached the US in March. He said he felt entirely safe and well taken care of — and that he won’t be doing it again anytime soon.
“There’s really no reason to shop right now,” the 23-year-old freelance writer and publicist said. He added that if he hadn’t needed a beach outfit for a last-minute trip to the Hamptons, he wouldn’t have ventured out that day either.
Retailers have spent months giving their stores pandemic-era makeovers, hoping that Americans stuck at home since March would be itching to return to the mall. Gaskins said at Bloomingdale’s, sales associates passed out free disposable masks. Club Monaco brought him a fresh pair of shorts from the stockroom to try on. The experience was pleasant, even approaching normal.
But crowds haven’t materialised. Though many stores saw an initial surge in foot traffic after reopening in late May and early June, daily visits have leveled off at nearly 50 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to Cowen.
There are signs even this partial recovery is in jeopardy. In the Northeast, where infection rates are low, lingering fears about the coronavirus have limited store visits. In some states where new cases are soaring, including California, local governments have again closed stores. Across the country, high unemployment and economic uncertainty are keeping wallets closed: the Consumer Confidence Index, published by the Conference Board, fell to 92.6 in July from 98.3 in June, marking the end of three months of progress.
“We have seen big improvements every week but that’s stalled,” said Bernstein analyst Jamie Merriman. “I do think there will be a trend of traffic numbers going backward.”
Customers today are also more reluctant to visit stores than they were in April, according to a survey of 1,200 women by retail predictive analytics company First Insight published Thursday. The company found 68 percent said they feel unsafe trying on clothes in dressing rooms, up from 65 percent three months ago.