2020 Winners – Pandemic Update

Early in 2020, we put together a list of brands that would end the year as clear winners. And halfway through, we’re still feeling good about our picks. Target’s pandemic low has been replaced by a recovery surge. Ulta, CVS, Chick-fil-A, and Chipotle are already within striking distance of 2019 levels, and even Bed Bath & Beyond is showing strength in recent weeks.

But the pandemic has changed things to such an extent that we felt it necessary to produce a second list, aimed at analyzing the brands that could thrive in the current situation. The only criteria was that the brand could not have been included on the previous list. Additionally, we tried to avoid the overly obvious so left fast food and off-price apparel out.

Home Depot & Lowe’s

Yes, I get it – these are brands that have already been crushing in the pandemic period, so it doesn’t take much to think they’ll continue to succeed. But we’re still including them because we called their success early and think things are going to continue – certainly not a given considering the sector’s normal seasonal strength takes place from March through May. 

And while the heights they reached were impressive, the fact that this performance has sustained into their off-peak season is all the more reason to be excited. As the period of economic uncertainty facing the country is unlikely to dissipate soon, the value of home upgrades, as opposed to entirely new homes, could become even greater.

BJ’s Wholesale Club

There may not be a brand that saw more benefit from its pandemic positioning than BJ’s Wholesale Club. The company saw visits decline by 3.7% between 2017 and 2018 and 4.5% between 2018 and 2019. And 2020 didn’t start off much better with January visits down 3.1% year over year. But everything changed with the pandemic. Visits went from a consistent low to massive year-over-year increases.

And the pace has continued post-pandemic with consistent year-over-year growth into June, including a new peak in the middle of the month as some core hard-hit states like New York reopened. The combination of its membership model, recovery strength, and value proposition should help this rebound continue deeper into the year.

Dick’s Sporting Goods

Some retailers are going to be forced to reevaluate their approach to offline as a result of the pandemic. But some are going to feel even better about their positioning and no brand exemplifies this more than Dick’s Sporting Goods. It started off 2020 with year-over-year growth of 9.1% and 17.0% for January and February respectively. And while the pandemic did cause traffic to disappear, the return has been remarkable.

Visits to Dick’s locations the week of June 15th were up 15.8% year over year, a tremendous accomplishment considering the week before they were down 18.1%. The combination of Dick’s pre-COVID strength, recovery power, and a new off-price concept that is perfectly positioned for the coming months should produce tremendous confidence.

Tuesday Morning

I tried to find some pun-esque wordplay that would enable me to express how well-positioned Tuesday Morning is while also mentioning their name, but I failed. What I cannot imagine failing however is this brand’s strong performance. Following the pandemic, where visits reached a previously unfound nadir, the recovery for the brand has been impressive. 

While visits the last week of April were still down 67.3% year over year, the weeks of June 8th and 15th were already showing year-over-year growth of 17.2% and 12.1% respectively. And the timing could not be better. Off-price home goods may be the best lane to be occupying in the coming months, as a period of economic uncertainty combines with a surge in home goods shopping and we come to realize all the things we truly detested about our homes while in lockdown. The result is a perfectly positioned brand for a strong 2020 finish.

Nike

I can’t help it, I love what Nike is doing. An honorable mention in our January predictions, I could not resist this time around. 

Why? Firstly, performance. The week of April 27th, visits to Nike locations were down to nothing, yet by the week of June 15th, visits were down just 37.7% year over year. And all this with malls still closed and key states just in the early stages of reopening. Secondly, the brand is announcing the opening of 150-200 stores. While some companies are closing locations or rethinking offline strategies, Nike is recognizing an opportunity to further establish its offline strength with the opportunities presented by a unique real estate environment.

Office Supplies

While home improvement may be an obvious choice, the office supply sector is clearly not. Yet, top brands in the space are now sitting on a golden opportunity to revive this struggling offline office supplies industry. The home office has been placed on a pedestal and the ability to service this strength will define the ability of brands like Office Depot or Staples to succeed in the long term.

Why the confidence? Office Depot and Staples kicked off 2020 with January visits down 10.5% and 8.8% respectively year over year. Yet, by mid-June, both brands were in the range of their early 2020 performance even with many stores across the country still limited by the pandemic’s effects. And all this with the sectors’ normal seasonal peak coming in a back to school period that’s just around the corner. Is the revival a sure thing? Certainly not. Is there a unique opportunity for a brand within this space to reimagine its future? Definitely.

Agree with our picks? Think we missed something critical? Let us know about it by reaching out here.

Ethan Chernofsky

Ethan Chernofsky

Ethan is the VP Marketing at Placer.ai and loves helping people reach their goals with location analytics.

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