Covid-19 drives retail, recreational traffic down by a third between Nov-Dec, says Google

Shoppers taking a photo of the Christmas tree at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur December 9, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Shoppers taking a photo of the Christmas tree at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur December 9, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Fear of Covid-19 and increased restrictions kept people off the country’s popular retail and recreational spots between early November to mid-December, according to Google’s community mobility report that tracks movement during the pandemic.

Drops in visits to retail and recreational locations within the capital city was the highest by region, by as much as 36 per cent against the baseline, the report said citing data from check-ins at premises like restaurants, cafés, shopping centres, and theme parks.

Meanwhile public parks and workplaces in the Federal Territory also posted lower traffic, at 28 and 21 per cent respectively.

Only residentials saw traffic increased, by close to a tenth.

Google said it calculates the changes in mobility trends using the same kind of aggregated and anonymised data used to show popular times for places in Google Maps.

The findings showed trends over several weeks with the most recent data representing approximately two to three days ago, which Google said is how long it takes to produce the reports.

In Sabah, where up until late last month accounted for the bulk of new Covid-19 cases before Selangor and the Klang Valley took over, retail and recreation traffic plunged 35 per cent against the baseline.

Johor trailed just behind with traffic contracting by 34 per cent, followed by Selangor at 31 per cent. Other states also posted declines even as new infection cases stayed relatively low.

The retail market was pounded yet again after public health authorities were forced to impose a fresh round of movement restrictions after daily Covid-19 cases spiked to record highs starting in October, and has continued until now.

But there is already expectation that the trend could change upward in the upcoming months as the government began relaxing travel restrictions last week.

Retailers polled by Malay Mail said the lifting of the interstate travel ban and limits for customer dine-ins have helped spurred the mood for spending.

The Malaysian Retail Chain Association said foot traffic at malls, restaurants, and tourist locations have increased exponentially compared to October and November, prompting members to express optimism about next year’s sales outlook.

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