Visits to indoor malls in the second quarter were “within striking distance” of pre-pandemic levels, according to a new analysis from Placer.aiand in more good news, outdoor malls also saw their visit gap drop to a mere 0.7% during the same period. 

“Malls have made an impressive leap forward in the past three months compared to Q1, when year-over-two-year visits were down an average of 24.5%,” Placer.ai’s Ethan Chernofsky writes in a recent report analyzing Q2 mall data. “This consistent progresseven without a major shopping holidayshows the true strength of the rebound for this critical retail format. And shoppers continue to show their desire to visit these retail destinations, another sign of the powerful resiliency of consumer demand for the mall format.”

Visits to indoor malls were down just 8.1% last month over 2019 levels, and have seen an improvement in visits each month since February. 

The visit gap last month for major outlet and outdoor centers came in at 5.6% as compared to June 2019 figures. June was the second strongest month this year for outdoor centers, with visits down an average of 4.4% compared to June 2019 levels.  In Q1, conversely, the average declines clocked in at 14.4%. 

But while those shrinking visit gaps are positive, “the most promising metric may actually come from looking at visits rates month over month,” Chernofsky says. Month-over-month, visits to indoor malls rose 14.4%, and outdoor mall visits rose 12.8% from May to June.

The back to school season will also be a critical metric for retailers, especially since the 2019 season was especially successful and set “a very difficult bar to reach for the 2021 season.” 

“If the visit gap continues to shrink, it will be an exceptionally strong sign for the retail sector,” Chernofsky says. “However, even if the gap increases, it may have more to do with the heights hit in 2019 than the pace of recovery in 2021.”

Mall owners and retailers have reported strong growth over the last quarter, according to new research from JLL, as malls begin functioning more as town centers. Simon Property Group reported inking 1,100 new leases totaling 4.4 million square feet in the first quarter, deal volume that exceeds the same periods in 2019 and 2020.