Consumer Shopping Behavior Changed in 2020, but Has Returned to Looking More Like 2019

ICSC and Found that Consumer Shopping and Spending Habits are Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels

NEW YORK, September 30, 2021–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Consumer shopping habits changed during the pandemic, but only temporarily, according to a new study by ICSC and, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Shopping Patterns from 2019-2021“. The findings explore consumer foot traffic, shifts in day and time consumers shopped, length of stay and basket size over the past two years.

The study found that while foot traffic fell off significantly last year, mostly due to government mandated closures of non-essential retailers, it has returned to pre-pandemic levels for grocery anchored open-air centers and near pre-pandemic levels for malls. Although shoppers decreased their frequency of visits to marketplaces, they were more purposeful and spent more money each trip. Basket sizes increased during the first two quarters of 2021 as compared to those in 2019, with malls seeing an $87.40 increase and grocery-anchored centers a $111.05 increase.

“These numbers are not only encouraging but reinforce the importance of physical retail to consumers. Retailers quickly adjusted to an increase in demand for online shopping, but it is evident from the data that the consumer is back and reconnecting with their prior shopping and spending patterns.” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “Clearly physical retail isn’t going away, but the most effective retailers have figured out how to leverage online and use their stores as consumer hubs whereby providing options for shoppers.”

As the recovery period began in March 2021, ICSC consumer survey data reported that

48 percent of adults said they expect their adopted pandemic behaviors to fade rather quickly as the COVID-19 health crisis improves. Foot traffic levels are rebounding as we move through 2021. In Q2, foot traffic for malls was down only 11 percent and 5 percent for grocery-anchored centers compared to 2019. In July, for the first time in 2021, foot traffic surpassed 2019 levels at indoor malls (+0.9%) and grocery-anchored centers (+ 1.8%), nationally.

“The pandemic’s early effects on retail were so significant that many questioned what the future of brick-and-mortar retail would look like and whether it could maintain its current level of importance. Yet, in recent months, the retail recovery has shown that consumer demand has remained resilient, and that the future of brick-and-mortar retail could be even brighter than its recent past,” stated Noam Ben-Zvi, Co-founder and CEO, “A changing landscape is creating opportunities for those willing to embrace new approaches to tenant mix, the role of stores in omnichannel retail and the evolving demands on shopping centers themselves. Data is playing a significant role in helping to minimize risk and maximize the chances of success in this unique environment.”

The data shows that the Marketplaces industry has not fully recovered from the impacts of the pandemic, but the data also reveals that a significant rebound and return to prior shopping and spending behaviors is underway. Despite the shift to online shopping, marketplaces and physical retail spaces will remain an essential part of the consumer shopping journey, serving to enhance the overall omnichannel shopping experience.


The data that form the basis of this analysis were provided by—a location data analytics firm—and are based on consumer behaviors tracked at roughly 200 randomly selected shopping center properties (100 indoor malls and 100 grocery-anchored open-air centers) representing all geographic regions across the United States. All data presented is national, unless otherwise noted. For purposes of this report, the pre-pandemic period refers to March 2019 through February 2020. The pandemic period refers to March 2020 to February 2021 and the recovery period refers to March 2021 to the present day.

About ICSC

The member organization for industry advancement, ICSC promotes and elevates the marketplaces and spaces where people shop, dine, work, play and gather as foundational and vital ingredients of communities and economies. ICSC produces experiences that create connections and catalyze deals; aggressively advocates to shape public policy; develops high-impact marketing and public relations that influence opinion; provides an enduring platform for professional success; and creates forward-thinking content with actionable insights – all of which drive industry innovation and growth. For more information, please visit

About is the most advanced foot traffic analytics platform allowing anyone with a stake in the physical world to instantly generate insights into any property for a deeper understanding of the factors that drive success. is the first platform that fully empowers professionals in retail, commercial real estate, hospitality, economic development and more to truly understand and maximize their offline activities. Find more information here:

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Keith Hudson
Director, Public Relations
Email: [email protected]

Katheleen Knopf

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