Since the pandemic began two years ago, a large majority of people hunkered down. For many that meant a significant shift to working from home, shopping online, and in general, going out less often. As people today begin to return to a new normal, understanding trends can provide important insights to help local Downtown businesses manage through the period.
Downtown’s hospitality and retail economy has been described as a four-legged stool with visitors, workers, residents, and conventioneers forming its foundation. Visitors are defined as individuals coming from neighborhoods throughout Long Beach and surrounding cities. During this past holiday shopping season, the number of visitors to Downtown rose to 1.33 million, which is near pre-pandemic levels of 1.39 million in 2019. It was nearly double the number of visitors for the same period in 2020. It’s another sign that the Downtown economy is making its way back and managing through the impact from pandemic.
The visitor information was collected from Shop Small Saturday – the first Saturday following Thanksgiving – through the first of the new year. For the data, DLBA works with Placer.ai, which develops and manages a leading location analytics and foot traffic data platform. Placer.ai leverages aggregated, anonymous mobile location data to estimate the total amount of visits and visitors to an area, including those on bikes, skateboards, or even vehicles. This gives a more accurate estimate of user traffic in Downtown when compared to traditional place-based pedestrian counting hardware.
“Downtown Long Beach has been resilient,” according to Austin Metoyer, DLBA Economic Development and Policy Manager. “While the impact of the pandemic remains a significant challenge and not all businesses are experiencing an increase in sales, DLBA remains focused on supporting our local Downtown community through this unparalleled period with a range of economic, recovery, marketing and business support initiatives.”
In another data point, New Year’s Eve visitors at the Downtown Waterfront this year surpassed pre-pandemic levels at about 98,800 vs. 93,600 in 2019 during the same period. Visitors took advantage of specials at local bars, restaurants and entertainment venues, who followed health and safety guidelines, and had the opportunity to cap off the evening outside with midnight fireworks sponsored by DLBA, Shoreline Village and the City of Long Beach Economic Development Department.
To help support local companies, DLBA collaborated with nearly 100 storefront businesses on end-of-the-year marketing campaigns that featured a local holiday shop and dine guide and a fireworks dining guide, as well as promotions through social media channels. Looking ahead, DLBA is working with different retail sector businesses in preparation for Black History Month and Valentines Day Weekend.