How many visitors did Wisconsin businesses lose because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing? Report says 52% drop in foot traffic

As part of the effort to measure the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact, a report by the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found foot traffic at Wisconsin businesses decreased by 52% in the last week of March when compared to the same week a year ago.

The drop was 60% from 2019 to 2020 for the final weekend in March. Malls, restaurants, and bars statewide were closed on March 17. The safer at home order took effect on March 25.

CROWE’S director, Noah Williams said CROWE researchers expected a large decline in foot traffic statewide, but they were not sure how large the impact would be.

“Clearly for businesses like movie theaters which are closed down, it was almost a 100% drop which was predictable,” Williams said in an email. “But we weren’t sure for example how large the decline in retail was as the shutdown of non-essential businesses were (at least partly) balanced by increases at essential businesses.”

The report states foot traffic was down 76% at hotels and 71% in restaurants for the last week of March. That drop was even greater, 83% and 76% respectively, during the month’s final weekend.

Overall, retail stores saw a drop of 33%, while grocery stores had the smallest drop, just 7%.