MINNEAPOLIS — Stores are starting to see signs that customers are craving a return to in-person retail therapy.
While retailers believe the shift to online shopping during the pandemic will be a lasting change, there are signs that customers also are ready to return to brick-and-mortar shopping.
In Minnesota, retailers big and small saw upticks in foot traffic in late January, said Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association. Usually, that increase comes in the first half of the month when customers return Christmas gifts and shop sales.
"I think that it actually makes a tremendous difference, especially to those stores that survived the holiday shopping season," Nustad said about the slight increase in traffic. "That foot traffic is that glimmer of light that the second quarter of 2021 might be OK."
Heather Fox and the rest of the staff at her Foxwell home store in Edina had originally expected to have a very slow January in terms of traffic, but it turned out to be "a great, very busy month," she said.
Fox and husband Brad — the married pair of Realtors, renovators and stars of HGTV's "Stay or Sell" — had expected to open Foxwell in April, but with everything going on last year, the opening was delayed until late last June.
At the Foxwell, located on the corner of S. France Avenue and 44th Street, customers can find a curated array of home decor from scented candles to Turkish rugs. In addition to the retail store, the space houses the company's design studio and offices for Fox Homes real estate agents.
While Foxwell has a robust presence on Instagram, its website won't allow people to actually shop for items virtually until possibly this summer. People must venture to the store to buy the home items they like.
"I want our shoppers to feel comfortable, happy and like they're able to have a little escape," Heather Fox said. "We sell pretty things, and I am a believer that your home should reflect who you are. I think we have something for everyone and nothing makes me happier than watching shoppers get that little spark in their eye when they see what speaks to them."
Nationally, foot traffic at a handful of major stores has started to go in a positive direction to begin the year, according to data reported last week by retail analytics firm Placer.ai.