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Malls in New Jersey and Texas: A Tale of Two Trends

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On June 29, 2020, indoor malls in New Jersey re-opened, and foot traffic increased by 19.2% compared to the previous week. Large malls like Bridgewater Commons, the Garden State Plaza, and Menlo Park all rose by more than 100%. We contrast this successful re-opening in New Jersey with the re-opening malls in Texas on May 1st. COVID-19 cases in Texas never slowed and then grew exponentially after the re-opening. Mall visits during the week of June 29 were back to similar levels from the first week of the re-opening. Year-over-year, Texas malls are down 55% while New Jersey’s are down just 34%.
Malls in New Jersey and Texas: A Tale of Two Trends
Max Miller
and Bruce Mizrach
July 13, 2020
On May 18
, 2020, Governor Murphy announced a schedule for re-opening the state’s economy.
On June 15th, restaurants opened for outdoor dining, and retail stores opened with capacity
limits. June 29
was the first day that indoor malls were permitted to re-open.
This report, like our previous work,
relies on alternative data from SafeGraph, which draws
data from more than 45 million cellphone users across the United States. It anonymously tallies
visits to malls, restaurants, and other points of interest. More details about the data appear after
the summary.
We report statewide visits and visitor counts from SafeGraph for the entire state of New Jersey
in Figure 1. The mobility data tracks the movements of consumers to locations throughout the
state. During the week of June 29-July 5
, statewide visits, compared to the prior week, June
22-28th, rose 3.3%, from 4.34 to 4.48 million.
This report focuses on the malls which had been closed since March 17
, when there were only
267 coronavirus cases in the state.
Mall visits were up 19.2% during the first week of reopening.
Bridgewater Common, the Garden State Plaza, and Menlo Park Mall, three large indoor malls in
northern and central New Jersey, all showed increases of more than 100%. The Hamilton
Marketplace, a strip mall in Hamilton, and Moorestown Mall, a mid-size mall in South Jersey off
Route 38, were among the five malls that had declining visits.
We contrast the results for New Jersey with Texas, where there has been a resurgence of the
COVID-19 virus. Texas malls re-opened on May 1
. With current weekly COVID cases
exceeding 46,000, visits to Texas malls have fallen back to the levels of the week of May 4
When we compare mall traffic to a year ago, New Jersey is still down 34% compared to the week
of June 24th, 2019. Texas is down 55%.
Tufts University
Professor Economics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 07090. We
would like to thank SafeGraph for making the data available for this analysis.
Administrative Order
AO 2020-16.
Max Miller, Bruce Mizrach, “The Economic Impact of New Jersey’s Phase Two Re-Opening,” June 29, 2020.
An Analysis of New Jersey’s Malls
We compiled a list of 47 malls in New Jersey containing a total of more than 5,000 stores from
the Malls and Centers shopping guides.
We are able to consistently identify 31 of the 47 malls
throughout our sample dating to December 2018.
Foot traffic at malls can be difficult to track because the location data are not precise for visits to
stores within the mall. Stores with exterior entrances can also be captured independently. For
these reasons, mall visits were positive even when the malls were closed. These tracking issues
introduce some bias, but with the malls now fully open in New Jersey, we can make meaningful
comparisons to earlier periods.
We graph mall visits in Figure 2. Mall visits rose 19.2% after the official mall reopening, from
47.1 thousand to 56.2 thousand
Comparison to Texas
We include in this report a comparison to Texas. Texas re-opened earlier than New Jersey, and
Texas governor Greg Abbott opened the malls statewide on May 1st, 2020.
Starting in mid-
June, COVID-19 cases began to surge in the state.
We collected a list of 96 Texas malls,
and we were able to consistently match 46 malls through
our 18 month sample. We plot visits to these locations in Figure 3.
Following the re-opening, mall visits rose steadily, peaking at almost 78,000 during the week of
June 15th. COVID-19 cases had already begun to spike at that point in Texas. COVID case
increases rose from 7,700 in the week of May 4th to more than 46,000 cases in the week of June
29-July 5th.
Consumers responded to this resurgence, and mall visits fell during the weeks of June 15th and
June 22nd. During the week of June 29
, mall visits were up only 4% compared to the first full
week of the Texas re-opening, May 4-10th.
Results for A Sample of New Jersey Malls
We examine five malls around the state that are representative of the trends we see in the
aggregate data. Three large indoor malls, the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, Menlo Park Mall
in Edison, and Bridgewater Commons in Bridgewater all saw increases of over 100% for the
week. The data are plotted in Figure 4.
Menlo Park led the way with an increase of 537%. Some malls actually saw declining foot traffic.
Hamilton Marketplace, a strip mall in Hamilton, and the Moorestown Mall in Moorestown were
among five malls that had small declines during the week. The opening of the larger indoor
malls appears to have drawn consumers away from those locations.
Safegraph Data
SafeGraph collects data from more than 45 million cellphone users. It features foot traffic counts
for five million places in the U.S.
The company provides details on the number of active cell
phones in their sample, and we adjust visitors and visitor counts as the sample size varies.
Our analysis in this report focused on 31 malls in the Garden State and 46 in Texas. We report
adjusted visit statistics in Table 1 for New Jersey statewide, and for the malls in New Jersey and
Table 1: SafeGraph Visit Counts Recent v. Year Ago
We can see that the malls we capture in New Jersey had nearly 40,000 fewer visits than
malls in Texas in June 2019. With the COVID resurgence in Texas, those same malls
had more visits than we observed in Texas.
For this relatively high frequency analysis, we utilize the weekly pattern dataset.
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