New York retail sector slowly improving, says study

(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

The retail sector of New York State experienced its strong week since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March, according to analytics site Placer.ai

Measuring foot traffic amongst mass merchandise, apparel, and shopping centers around the state, overall retail visits during the week of June 15 were down 22% year over year, but it is a significant improvement compared to previous weeks and is the best stretch since the week of March 9, when visits were up 5% compared to last year. 

It’s an 8% improvement from the previous week and a 14% bump compared to the start of the month.

Leading the way is home-improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes, whose visits went up 27.3% year over year as Do-It-Yourselfers continue finding projects to do in their own backyard.

Superstores such as Target and Costco also saw growth in traffic compared to this time in 2019 with a 6.3% improvement. Target and Costco went from seeing a 20% drop during the week of May 18 to improvements of 2.2% and 0.9% respectively. 

The same can’t be said for other major types of retail as their visit numbers are still trending in the red. 

Grocery-store visits are down 5.6% compared to last year while electronics suffered a 38.1% drop, dining a 39.3% drop, and most notably, apparel with a 49.7% decrease. 

Apparel outlets have been one of the most impacted sectors since the COVID-19 outbreak because they were considered non-essential. Shops that depend on the in-store experience were suddenly forced to compete with the online supergiants like Amazon.

While they are still nowhere near their usual figures of traffic, apparel stores are seeing improvements and the week of June 15 provided their best stretch yet. 

Notable stores such as Macy’s, Nordstroms, Saks Fifth Avenue, Gap, Nike, Lululemon, Burlington, and TJ Maxx had their best weeks since the winter. 

If New York’s coronavirus numbers continue trending in the right direction — unlike numerous states across the country — the recovery for these businesses can continue. However, another spike in the virus could be another hammer blow for many of these stores.