Downtown Seattle’s retail recovery — or lack thereof — by the numbers

Downtown Seattle’s retail recovery — or lack thereof — by the numbers

Downtown Seattle’s Retail Scene Struggles to Recover from Pandemic

Despite an uptick in sales and visitor numbers this summer, downtown Seattle’s retail sector has not returned to its pre-pandemic levels. According to recent reports, retail occupancy in the area dropped by 10% as the pandemic set in and has remained at 90% since then. Additionally, the number of new retail business licenses issued has fallen by more than half over the past three years, pointing to a significant decline in new retail activity in the downtown area.

Rico Quirindongo, director of the Office of Planning and Community Development, highlighted that the downtown retail core has experienced a decline and proposed changes to revitalize the area. The expansion of online shopping during the pandemic and the shift away from traditional brick-and-mortar retail have been cited as factors contributing to the numerous empty street-level retail spaces.

Despite an almost full recovery in downtown hotel occupancy rates, total foot traffic remains nearly 20% lighter than before the pandemic. Worker foot traffic is also significantly lower, with the average duration of a visit to the downtown area being more than an hour shorter than in 2019.

Quirindongo also emphasized the need for new development and refurbishment of the built environment to improve the pedestrian experience and support adjacent businesses.

Historically, downtown Seattle’s retail scene was thriving before the pandemic, with nearly 100% occupancy rates and a high number of new business licenses being issued. However, the impact of the pandemic has been substantial, leading to a decline in retail activity and foot traffic.

The challenges faced by downtown Seattle’s retail sector highlight the need for strategic efforts to revitalize the area and encourage new investment to support its recovery.

Visual reporting of local news and trends is partially underwritten by Microsoft Philanthropies. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all its coverage.

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