US Pedestrian Traffic Predictions for the 2021 Holiday Shopping Season

The trends for pedestrian traffic across retail destinations for the holiday season this year will inevitably be driven by the underlying trends in consumer behavior which are prevailing as we emerge out of Covid.  A key trend is that a large proportion of employees are continuing to work from home for at least part of the week (54% in September 20211), which means that fewer shoppers are in downtowns during the working week (between Monday and Friday pedestrian traffic in US downtowns was 45% lower during September this year than in September 2019 whilst during the weekend it was only 27% lower2).  Given that the majority of retail spending is still derived from in-store rather than online purchases, this suggests that pedestrian traffic is likely to shift to different days and/or different parts of the day, eg. Shifting more to the weekend and/or the evening.  Indeed, in September 24% of consumers stated that they shop in retail destinations less frequently and 16% shop more during the evening or over the weekend1.

The second, albeit lesser, trend is the potential restriction on the availability of products due to worldwide supply issues.  This is likely to encourage consumers to bring their purchasing forward earlier than in previous years so they can ensure the products in demand for festive gifts are available.

Managing a Winter Lockdown

The most successful retailers throughout the Covid period have been those who have had an effective online proposition, so in the face of another lockdown – which suggests retailers will be limited in terms of how they trade in store (eg. BOPIS or kerbside collection) or not able to trade in store at all – it will be those retailers who can continue to provide consumers with an effective online proposition will fare the best and which are likely to secure their longevity.

Handling an influx of consumers following a year without holiday shopping

With pent-up demand, retailers will be thinking about how to safely handle the influx of consumers after last year’s holiday shopping was cancelled. This is where the trend for working from home can actually support retailers – with lower pedestrian traffic in retail destinations during the working week, it will enable retailers to promote the opportunity for in-store customers to shop at quieter times of the day or on quieter days of the week.  As importantly, it is also important for retailers to track their in-store customer occupancy which will enable them to control the number of customers who are allowed in store.  Springboard’s Occupancy Alert Service tracks customer numbers in-store, live in real time, enabling retailers to manage the number of customers allowed to enter the store at any point during the day.  The retailer is alerted when the number of customers in store approaches the set “threshold” (the maximum number allowed) and they can then stop any further customers entering until some customers leave the store.

Croydon, UK

Black Friday vs Cyber Monday

Over the last few years Black Friday has superseded Cyber Monday in terms of significance to consumers. Rather than a single day, Black Friday is now regarded by retailers as a week long event and spans both online and store promotions. For the past few years Cyber Monday has represented more of an extension to Black Friday rather than a standalone event.

In previous years the retailers who succeeded most over Black Friday were those who offered the greatest discounts.  With the possibility of a limitation in available stock, successful retailers are also likely to be those who manage their inventory most successfully to ensure that desired products are available.  At the same time, there is a risk that retailers may over-order and be left with excess stock which will have to be further discounted undermining their margin, and so for retailers to come on top they need to optimize their inventory levels.


1according to Springboard’s Retail Consumer Survey September 2021

2Springboard Downtown Retail Pedestrian Traffic Report, September 2021