Our Customer Success team here at Pygmalios took a deep dive into Slovak physical retail and compared footfall data from both 2020 and 2021, and across multiple retail segments and locations. This is what they found.
The end of the Easter holidays brought in a slow but steady loosening of pandemic restrictions and, as a result, increased mobility and traffic. In the first two weeks after the holidays, physical stores, though only the ones marked “essential”, experienced a similar hop in in-store visits as in 2020, when the first wave of coronavirus was near its end. Even though the government restriction regarding the number of people in one place at the same time did not change after the holidays, people generally started to move and visit shops more, as if they awakened from their lockdown winter hibernation.
Easter break period for 2020 (green line) and 2021 (purple line)
This trend peaked on the 19th of April, when nonessential retail was finally allowed to open its gates. As you probably could’ve guessed, it meant that shopping centers got their full power back again. Great customer traffic was expected to flood shopping centers and physical retail could not hide its sheer excitement. This is how shopper traffic looked:
Customer traffic in shopping centers in 2021 (weeks)
Compared to the period right after the Easter holidays, throughout the week of nonessential retail opening (week 17), the traffic in shopping centers rose by approximately 51%. Remember that people were beginning to move around more during this period. However, when we take the whole year so far, the traffic in week 17 was up by almost 80% and continues to grow. It seems that customers, by now used to closed doors, welcomed the change with the same sheer excitement as physical retailers. An intriguing question only retailers have an answer for emerges: did this bump in traffic translate into a similar increase in sales?
The above graph summarizes the situation in shopping centers across the whole country. Now, let’s look at how different essential retail segments, such as Food and Telco, reacted to this major change. It’s quite hard to even remember the last time shopping centers were at full force in Slovakia so we could anticipate visible changes in visitor traffic across different retail segments and even outside of shopping centers.
Now, we understand that both Food and Telco segments are considered essential and thus were not required to close when other segments had to. But since they could be open, we were able to follow trends in customer traffic throughout the whole period and put the stores into different clusters based on their geographical location, as well as distinguish those outside shopping centers and compare them to the ones within. We’ve got the data so why not look at it in detail?
Even though in 2021 shopping centers were just shadows of what they used to be, Telco customers still preferred to visit their respective providers there. Most Telco stores are actually situated in shopping centers, especially in the capital Bratislava. Therefore, we can say that this is rather a matter of no choice for many customers. We can, however, assume that many Telco operators moved their client operations online, as stores both inside and outside shopping centers have been facing much lower average traffic this year than in 2020. The opening of nonessential stores in week 17 increased traffic in Telco stores as well – those in shopping centers by around 28% while those outside only by 20% compared to the rest of 2021. However, despite the rising positive trend, 2021 has a lot of catching up if it wants to get ahead of 2020.
Development of customer traffic in Telco segment across 2020 and 2021 both for shopping centers and stores outside shopping centers
Food retail tells a slightly different story. The places have switched and stores outside of shopping centers seem more popular customer traffic-wise. However, this is again about having more and bigger food retail stores outside of shopping centers in Slovakia, so such evolution in data is completely natural. Interesting is the first peak in in-store customer traffic outside shopping centers, which occurred in the week leading up to the Easter holidays and then disappeared with a sudden drop only to rise again and stronger after the nonessential retail opened. Such a peak was not observed in food retail in shopping centers during the week of the Easter holidays, even though there was an increasing tendency, which exploded in the week when nonessentials opened. Afterward, unlike grocery outside shopping centers, it steadied itself out.
Development of customer traffic in Food retail through 2021 (weeks)
After analyzing the overall in-store traffic data, we wanted to zoom in a little bit. While still discussing customer traffic in shopping centers, let’s look at how a regular week changed in the period after everything in shopping centers was flung open.
For Telco retail, the dynamics in shopping centers changed quite dramatically, especially in the evening after 5 PM. The dark area in the visualization below shows that customers started to visit Telco stores more after they wrapped up work and left their office for the day, which was quite normal in pre-corona times but not during the whole of 2021. After shopping centers fully opened, evening in-store traffic in Telco during a regular weekday increased by a whopping 277%, and overall footfall during the weekends increased by 212% compared to the rest of 2021. This means that customers started to visit more in the evening and during the weekends as opposed to a typical working week, which did not have such a drastic increase in the number of visits.
Punchcard of Telco retail traffic in shopping centers. Darker squares represent bigger traffic.
We observed a similar pattern in Food retail in shopping centers. The increase in traffic after everything opened was even more accentuated during evenings and weekends than in Telco, and in the first two morning hours, compared to the rest of 2021. In total, the traffic in the weekday evenings increased by 266%, and even more during the whole of the weekend – 276%! That’s huge! It seems like the customers are returning to their old ways of shopping now that they can. Most of them did not get used to the pandemic ways of physical retailing and embraced the comeback of the new-old like a good old friend.
Punchcard of Food retail traffic. Darker squares represent bigger traffic.
Authors: Kristina Zrncikova & Pavel Gezik