SAN ANTONIO – Shoppers are slowly starting to return to area malls after a year of absence for a significant number of local customers due to Covid-19.
Parking lots are more crowded and stores are seeing increased traffic.
“A lot of our customers are very excited to be coming out and shopping and just getting human interaction,” says Victoria Hernandez, marketing director at Wonderland of the Americas Mall.
At CD Sam’s, people were spending money on a variety of items.
“I’ve seen a huge insurgence of customers. It’s probably like 200-fold for me. It’s really kicked up. It’s been extremely busy,” says Sam Carjaval, who runs CD Sam’s.
Some national estimates put the level of shoppers in malls at 70 percent compared to where it was a year ago.
“Not only have we had returning customers, but new customers going ‘oh wow. I didn’t know this was here. This is exciting. Let’s go check this out,’ ” Hernandez says.
That’s the case for Trenell Evans. She loaded up on party supplies today at Hobby Lobby.
“This is my first time in a mall (since Covid hit). We’ll see how it goes,” she says.
Shoppers we talked to were amused by the new term in customer spending, “revenge shopping.” It refers to people with pent-up frustration over being stuck at home now venturing out and opening their wallets.
“If that’s what you want to call it, yeah, I’ve seen a lot of that,” Carvajal says.
Shopping to get back at Covid struck some shoppers as amusing.
“It could be taken as revenge, yeah. You’re not going to beat me,” says Adrian Martinez, who had his arms full with several bags of clothes for himself and other family members in his first foray to a mall during the pandemic.
“If feels good to be out of our homes just to walk around and see people. It makes a difference.”
Customers looking for deals are abundant too.
“Everybody’s looking for good prices,” says Adriana Sharp of Adriana’s Casa de Novia. She sells party dresses and tuxedos.
Sharp is eager for even more customers to venture back into malls. Quinceaneras, weddings and other special occasions are her store’s livelihood.
“We need to continue life,” she says, pointing out several of the sanitation measures she’s taken to keep shoppers safe. Her story was empty though when we visited at noon.
While not every business has bounced back, a steady uptick is noticeable.
“We’re excited that things are starting to move back into place,” Hernandez says.
At Wonderland, the Easter Bunny will be making an appearance this weekend, another harbinger of normalcy after a challenging year.
People we talked to are glad they can finally do something that feels almost like it used to 13 months ago.
“I think I’m going to look around some more,” Evans says. “I haven’t experienced it all yet but I’m going to keep doing a little more.”