Feb 19, 2021 - News
Foot traffic drops in Des Moines malls

Foot traffic significantly dropped for malls in the Des Moines metro in 2020 compared to the year prior, according to cell phone data analyzed by geospatial analytics company Orbital Insight.

Why it matters: Troubled chain retailers and big-box stores were already filing for bankruptcy prior to 2020, resulting in huge mall vacancies. (Just look at Younkers.)

By the numbers: Valley West Mall led the decline, with foot traffic at just 54% of its 2019 average.

  • Jordan Creek Town Center did a little better, with 59% — if you count just the mall.
  • Merle Hay Mall fared best at 68%.

The state of play: Liz Holland, Merle Hay Mall's owner, credits the shopping center's diverse offerings, including Target, Game Day and Five Below, for its higher retention.

  • "We have now gone from a monthly needs destination — at best — to a weekly needs destination," she said.

The future: Malls that can diversify beyond retail will continue to attract people to their huge spaces.

  • Jordan Creek Town Center is bringing in Dave & Buster's and Des Moines' first H&M.
  • Merle Hay Mall is proposing a 3,500-seat arena. It could be home to the Des Moines Buccaneers or even an e-sports tournament.
  • Valley West Mall announced plans in 2019 to convert into a mixed-use development, including apartments.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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