Shoppers across the country are retreating again as coronavirus cases surge

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An employee wearing a face mask is pictured inside a shop at Westfield Santa Anita mall during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Arcadia, California June 25, 2020.

Mario Anzuoni | Reuters

Just as shoppers were beginning to inch back to stores, with local economies reopening and malls turning their lights back on, retail traffic declines are accelerating yet again, according to a report. 

Retail traffic in the U.S. was down the most so far in 2020, on a year-over-year basis, during the week ended April 18, according to data from the retail consultancy ShopperTrak. It fell 82.6%. 

From then until the past 14 days, there were slight improvements. Those declines shrank each week, according to ShopperTrak, which is part of part of Sensormatic Solutions. The decline had eased to being down just 34% from the year prior, for the week ended June 20. 

But over the past two weeks, retail traffic declines have accelerated once more, as Covid-19 cases surge nationwide, with hot spots in states including Florida and Texas. Customers are retreating for a second time. Apple has made one of the boldest moves, so far, closing dozens of stores in malls for a second time

The week ended June 27 traffic in the U.S. was down 35.7%, according to ShopperTrak. Last week it was down 39.5% compared with the prior year. 

But not all states are looking the same. 

Thirty-seven states, plus Washington, D.C., have trended down over the past two weeks on a year-over-year basis, according to ShopperTrak senior director Brian Field. Thirteen states, meantime, have continued to show improvement in traffic, he said. 

The divide between the two, according to Field, is largely driven by the safety precautions that are being taken in each of those states. Of the 38 states with traffic falling again, only eight of those are requiring masks statewide, Field said. Of the 13 on the rise, 11 require the general public to wear masks, he said. 

The biggest growth in retail traffic is happening in states including New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, according to ShopperTrak data. The biggest drop-offs, meantime, are happening in Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana and Alabama. 

“It’s all about consumers feeling confident,” Field said in a phone interview. 

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