When we got off at Northway Exit 20 in Warren County last weekend, there wasn’t a long line of cars waiting to turn left for the well-known “Million Dollar Half-Mile” of outlet shopping near Lake George.
Oh-oh, I thought. Perhaps the email that came from a retail search aggregator with the provocative subject line “Are Points of Sale?” was dead.
Locals know that Exit 20 can be relied upon as bounty hunters compete with commercial traffic that uses the same northbound lane of Route 9 to enter Vermont and points east via Route 149, located just beyond the five exit centers that hug the both sides of the road.
But I could see full parking lots as we drove along, pausing for crosswalk shoppers crossing from mall to mall to find the likes of Adidas, Levi’s, Eddie Bauer, Coach and other national discount names.
Spring and summer have been tough, however, for indoor malls, malls and open-air lifestyle outlets, according to Placer.ai, a location analytics firm that tracks shopper visits.
In particular, the points of sale have seen a decrease in visits compared to 2021, with a decrease every month since May; Shopping mall and outdoor visits were negative in July.
Placer blames the decline on the “ongoing challenges” of inflation and high gas prices, which have reduced consumers’ discretionary spending or made them think twice about recreational purchases.
One bright spot may be the decline in gasoline prices since June’s peak, which Placer reported last week was evident in visits in August, where the year-over-year decline was slightly smaller than in July.
Placer also said that while the monthly data for August “paints a picture of overall difficulties”, a look at the change in weekly visits compared to 2021 shows “a more positive situation” towards the end of the month, which could signal a rebound that carries through the fall.
(Since the Placer report, the government released the August consumer price index, which rose 8.3% in August despite lower gas prices. Inflation pushed food bills up 13.5% over August 2021.)
Laura Kohls of KDA Hospitality, which runs the Adirondack Outlet mall at Exit 20, sees “some truth to the concerns” expressed in the Placer’s foot traffic report.
But tenant stores that have cultivated relationships with both local shoppers and repeat tourists “are staying on top of their performance,” she said by email.
“[W]While there may be less foot traffic in some locations, shoppers who are making the trip are there to shop,” she noted.
Exit 20 points benefit from their location near year-round vacation destinations in the lower Adirondacks. Sales may peak in July and August, but “we’ll continue to see strong results throughout the year,” Kohls said.
Like other retailers, retailers have experienced supply issues affecting product mix and availability. “But for those with merchandise,” Kohls said, “the sales data reported for the summer season shows that they sold it.”
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. The opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Get it at [email protected]
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