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Dining and Nightlife Drew Consumers Back Downtown

Traffic slowly is returning to U.S. downtowns, despite worker resistance to returning to the office full time.

Photo Courtesy of Piman Khrutmuang.

Shopper traffic in U.S. downtowns in May was down only 28% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Springboard, an improvement from April, when shopper traffic was down 32% and from the 2021 holiday season, when it was down 29%. It’s also the closest that downtown traffic has gotten to 2019 numbers since the pandemic started.

According to Springboard, consumers are visiting downtowns on weeknights instead of waiting for the weekend, largely to visit restaurants and bars. The improvement owes at least partially to some employees returning to the office. For weekdays, downtown foot traffic in April was 36% lower than 2019, and that gap narrowed to 32% in May. For weeknights, the gap was 18.5% in April and 15.7% in May.

But it’s nightlife and not a work shift that’s the biggest driver of consumers to downtowns. In May 2022, downtown shopper traffic for the evening hours was 74.9% higher than May 2021 nights, according to Springboard.

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