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Here’s What’s Going on With Retail Foot Traffic Right Now

Warmer-than-average temperatures couldn’t keep foot traffic from falling in the second week of April.

Cowen & Co.’s latest data shows that retail footfall over the second week of this month sagged to 49.7 percent of the comparable week in 2019, or 65 percent lower from the week prior. Traffic to apparel stores was 49.1 percent of two-year-ago levels, the investment bank added, or 73.9 percent from the preceding week.

Though the industry has noted consumers’ pent-up demand to shop, a second round of federal stimulus checks distributed in March may have had a hand in propping up spending at retail.

Shoppers hunting for new fashion in March helped retail sales nationwide climb a seasonally adjusted 9.8 percent, or $619.1 billion, from February. Many believed consumers would take some of their federal windfall to the till instead of stashing it all in savings or opting for practicality in paying their bills.

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package also earmarked funds to fuel coronavirus vaccinations, in addition to padding consumers’ bank accounts. As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control said aout 26 percent of the U.S. is fully vaccinated, progress that many believe is powering economic growth and accelerating a return to something akin to normal.

In February, the National Retail Federation projected 6.5 percent to 8.2 percent annual retail sales growth for the year, partially based on vaccination trends and infection trajectories.

Meanwhile, Cowen forecasts this week’s retail footfall to reach 65 percent to 70 percent of 2019’s levels, due in part to unseasonably cold weather chilling the nation from Texas, the Rockies and the Great Lakes regions to the Florida peninsula and much of the Eastern states. However, the coastal Northeast is expecting warmer and drier weather versus last year, while the Northwest also has comfortable temperatures in the forecast.