As Pace of Reopenings Slip, Mastercard Offers Search Tool for Shoppers

Arthur Zaczkiewicz

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Upticks in new COVID-19 cases in the South and West are driving customer traffic down just as the pace of store re-openings was hitting a stride, according to data from RetailNext.

The analytics firm said traffic trends across the U.S. were also dragged down by “soft” foot traffic during the July 4 holiday weekend. For last week, traffic was down 46.6 percent year-over-year as net sales for the retailers tracked showed a year-over-year decline of 19.4 percent. But conversion rates were up as well as “shopper yield,” which is measured as the average sale amount “for each shopper visiting a store within a specified period,” the company noted in its research report.

After many retailers revealed plans to reopen stores following a lifting of restrictions early last month, many companies back-tracked and closed doors as COVID-19 cases spiked in the West and South, including states such as Arizona, California, Texas and Florida.

In an effort to help customers and businesses amid these conditions, Mastercard is offering an online search tool (ShopOpenings.com) that confirms which retailers and businesses are open to customers. The platform was built by Sixth Sense using Mastercard’s comprehensive database. “The tool also identifies which merchants accept contactless payments, as the pandemic continues to spark widespread adoption of the technology,” Mastercard stated.

Mastercard has also rolled out a program for small businesses to leverage the ongoing growth of e-commerce. “Digital Acceleration for Small Business” is designed to deliver “insights and resources for small business owners looking to digitize their businesses, especially as COVID-19 accelerates the needs for businesses to offer online commerce,” the company said in a statement.

Online sales are up nearly 50 percent year-over-year in the U.S., according to CCInsights.org. Mastercard said its digital acceleration program is aimed at providing “a pathway for small businesses to expand their online presence, protect their online operations and prepare to succeed in the new normal.” The company said as part of this, “small businesses will have access to Mastercard’s Digital Doors curriculum, in partnership with Squarespace and Hello Alice, which provides the resources and guidance to digitally transform your business.”

The digital acceleration program and launch of ShopOpenings.com is part of Mastercard’s “Recovery Insights” program that was created to support businesses as well as governments “across the globe looking for resources to help better inform business and government economic response efforts to the recent pandemic.”

In regard to the weekly traffic report from RetailNext, researchers at the firm said higher conversion rates are being impacted by factors “such as shoppers only visiting stores who are motivated to buy, and the increase in services such as ship from store, curbside pickup, etc.” The firm noted that last week, all categories showed a decline, with footwear down the most.

RetailNext said traffic trends across all regions “worsened from the week prior except for the Northeast,” where the traffic trends improved 3 percentage points to negative 36.5 percent year-over-year. “The West and South decreased the most from the week prior as COVID-19 cases spiked and many states paused or rolled back reopening plans,” the authors of the report noted.

Outside the U.S., RetailNext said European countries are “only seeing occasional ‘blips’ in COVID-19 cases spiking as they move to reopen. However, factors such as travel restrictions limiting traffic to heavy summer tourism countries, France delaying their famous summer sales, and Paris Fashion Week moving to online will likely continue to impact EMEA traffic trends.”

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