Mall Traffic Down 10% Over Last Year

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- The barricades that went up at shopping centers after Sept. 11 have long been removed, but
Photo: AP
Across the country mall crowds are thinner than a year ago.
shoppers nevertheless have been shying away from stores ever since.

No one can say for sure how much of this behavior is an aftershock of Sept. 11 or a response to the general economic downturn, but the overall impact is clear.

Consumers are shunning shopping malls, making fewer trips to the store and spending less time there, said Marshal Cohen, co-president of NPD Fashion World. "Sept. 11 affected shopping habits," he said.

10% decline
Overall, mall traffic is down 10% year over year, he said.

The terrorist attacks exacerbated declining shopping trends during the past five years. Mr. Cohen said that consumer "shopping occasions," that is, trips to the store for apparel and footwear, have dropped from 43 per year to 39 per year during the five years. When consumers do go to the store, they are spending less time there, with the estimated time spent per trip dropping from two and a half hours five years ago to a little over an hour now.

Different from last Sept.
In addition to the Sept. 11 aftershocks and the shaky economy is a change in shopping behavior by parents, who last year took care to insulate their children from the tragic events by buying them everything they wanted for back to school, he said. Boomers have learned to be more value-conscious than ever, realizing they can buy fashion at a price, Mr. Cohen said.

And if parents aren't even buying much for children returning to school this fall, retailers will be looking at major coal in their stockings this holiday season, traditionally the time of year when retailers make 15% to 30% of their annual sales and for some almost all of their annual profit.

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