Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a Placer.ai account? Log In

2021 Recap - Winners and Surprises

by 
Ethan Chernofsky
 on 
December 29, 2021
2021 Recap - Winners and Surprises

Every year the retail pendulum swings to the favor of some segments and chains, driven by trends that privilege those specific business models, offerings, and approaches. And 2021 was no different.

In this lookback, we break down some of the biggest winners of 2021 and some of the performances that surprised us most.

Winners

Retail Overall

While including the wider retail category as a winner verges on cheating in an exercise like this, it’s still a necessary addition. Heading into 2021, there was anything but certainty about the continued centrality of brick and mortar retail. The Retail Apocalypse narrative had been fueled by a 2020 defined by pandemic restrictions and questions about the capability of certain retail segments to recover in the face of digital alternatives and new behaviors that had been given nearly a year to lock in. 

Yet, the last year has proven that physical stores are as central to the future of retail as they have ever been. The resiliency of consumer demand for in-store shopping was put on full display, as were some of the unique attributes that only a brick and mortar experience can provide. The critical role physical retail plays in the discovery process, the impact of stores on marketing and logistics, and a better and deeper understanding of the impact of locations in maximizing omnichannel retail were all put on display in 2021. 

Even the rise of Omicron late in the year only limited what has been a stellar year for physical retail. Does physical retail need to continue changing and evolving? Yes. Has 2021 been a perfect example of how important it still is? Absolutely.

Luxury

While much of the apparel sector took hits, the luxury space was uniquely positioned for success. Visits and basket sizes increased as intent driven shoppers were motivated by government stimulus checks and added savings without some of their normal channels - like international travel - to spend on.

The increase in visits in October and November also creates a real sense that the trend could continue deep into 2022, especially if some elements of the current environment continue.

Grocery

It was only supposed to be a short term surge driven by the unique attributes of the pandemic, but the jump in grocery visits has proven to be more long term than initially expected. Driven by the success of traditional, one-stop-shop grocers, the wider supermarket sector saw consistent strength throughout the year. While the sector is unlikely to maintain the same level of growth into 2022, it is becoming increasingly clear that many brands saw their status jump a level in the last year and a half. An increased focus on at-home cooking, continued economic uncertainty, and the success many brands had in driving loyalty during the pandemic all appear to be coming together to drive long term strength for the space. 

And impressively, there are some brands that are still being limited by pandemic behaviors. As ‘normalcy’ continues to return, grocery chains that are more oriented towards prepared foods or city visitors could help drive a secondary boom for the space, driving the growth into the new year.

Off-Price

As the pandemic’s retail effects were initially being felt, there was a fairly wide consensus that off-price retailers were going to feel the pain. Many concluded that a lack of digital offerings combined with the inability to visit a store was going to create a long term deficit. 

Yet, in the end, as soon as visitors could go back to their favorite off-price chain - return they did. From February through November, Burlington averaged 12.5% monthly visit growth compared to 2019, while Ross and T.J. Maxx saw average increases of 5.0% and 5.8%, respectively. These are huge jumps that reflect the powerful brand relationships these chains have created and their ongoing – if not growing – value to core audiences. However, the biggest star of the Off Price landscape in 2021 was home furnishings player HomeGoods. The retailer saw a massive 21.2% average monthly visit increase compared to 2019, largely the result of sitting at the nexus of home improvement and value. 

The success could hold into 2022 as the value orientation of these brands continues to drive growth. Even more, all this success is happening as the ideal off-price digital offering remains hard to define. Should leaders in the space find this mix in the coming year, the growth could be even more significant. 

Surprises

Malls

While the success of malls is now taken as a given, it was hardly something widely expected going into 2021. Yet, rebound malls did, driving such impressive visit rates that several months showed traffic growth compared to 2019. Critically, there is nothing magical about the return. The success is primarily related to decisions top tier mall owners have been investing in for years to optimize and diversify tenant mix, reduce the focus on apparel and enhance the wider experience a mall can provide.

The resulting takeaway is that this trend is anything but a flash in the pan and could drive a more significant boost for top tier malls for years to come.

AMC

Yes, Spiderman’s brilliance likely swung the numbers up. But it is hard to look past the impressive recovery for theatre visits. One of the hardest hit activities throughout the pandemic, the pull of the movie theatre has shown that it still resonates among audiences. While this space is clearly more impacted by pandemic waves than others, there is still a surprising potential that a renewed excitement for theatre experiences could be around the corner.

Fitness

Whether it was blaming the rise of Peloton or the predicted demise of the fitness chain’s continued appeal, there was a real lack of optimism for the outlook for gyms in 2021. However, the sector recovered so strongly that visits already returned to consistent visit growth compared to 2019 by December. Though COVID could put a damper on this trend heading into a critical Q1, it is obvious that fitness chains have retained their draw even as excitement around connected health solutions has grown.

How will these perform in 2022? 

Visit Placer.ai to find out.

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Placer.ai Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Digging Into Darden: Q2 2024 Update
2024 Retail and Dining Trends Update
TRU and avid: Midscale Hotels on the Rise 
Diving Into Kroger: A Strong Start to 2024
Placer.ai Mall Index: May 2024 Recap – Mall Visits on the Rebound
Placer.ai Office Index: May 2024 Recap
2024 Memorial Day Recap
Las Vegas: A Tourism and Migration Deep Dive
Eatertainment Chains: Full on Food, Fun, and Foot Traffic
The Promise of Luxury Apparel
Catching Up With Ulta Beauty & Gap Brands
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Five Below: Q1 2024 Treasure Troves
CAVA Still Going Strong
Driving Success: Auto Parts Chains in 2024
Checking in With DICK’S Sporting Goods
Mother’s Day Shopping and Dining Trends
Placer.ai Mall Index: April 2024 Recap – Retail Resilience Heading into Spring
Dollar Stores Still Gaining Momentum
Off-Price Apparel Chains After Q1 2024: Demographics in the Balance
Walmart, Target, and Wholesale Clubs Continue to Thrive
Home Improvement and Decor Check In
Placer.ai Office Index: April 2024 Recap – Recovery Continues
Movie Theaters in Q1 2024: A Preview of Coming Attractions?
Let’s Get Physical: Fitness In 2024
Where Are Workers Returning to Office in 2024?
2024 Wins: Sweetgreen & First Watch on the Rise
A Full-Service Turnaround: Bloomin’, Dine, and Texas Roadhouse
Wendy’s and Denny’s: Breakfast and Late Night Dining Drives Success
Coffee Chains: Q1 2024 Update and What’s Changed Since COVID
Checking in with RBI and YUM!
Chipotle & McDonald's Serving Up Success
Wingstop & Shake Shack Continue Growing Their Reach 
Strong Start for Sprouts in 2024
Crocs’ Footwear Fairytale
Who Attends NCAA Final Four Events?
Eclipse Fever: How Did the (Retail and Hospitality) Stars Align?
Exploring Albertsons Companies’ Grocery Growth
Placer.ai Mall Index: March 2024 Recap – Malls Rise Again
Placer.ai Office Index: March 2024 Recap
Florida Spring Break Break-Up? Travelers Still Love Florida!
Provo-Orem and Ogden-Clearfield Emerging As Utah Hotspots 
Three Formulas for Experiential Retail in 2024
Aldi & Lidl Making The Cut
Texas Suburbs on the Rise
Exploring Luxury Hotel Brands’ Guest Segmentation
The St. Patrick’s Day Effect
How Can JOANN Make a Comeback?
Panera Bread Well Positioned for Possible IPO
Who Will Benefit From Family Dollar’s Downsizing?
Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment: Food and Fun for Everyone
Darden Brands: Location Analytics and Consumer Behavior
Nike and lululemon: a Strong 2023, Sprinting into 2024
Where Is Retail and Dining Foot Traffic Thriving in Early 2024?
Placer.ai White Paper Recap – February 2024
Three Retail & Dining Chains That May Surprise in 2024
Specialty Discount Chains Rock Retail Therapy
Placer.ai Mall Index: February 2024
Placer.ai Office Index: February 2024 Recap
Ulta Beauty Continues To Shine
First Watch Sails Into 2024
Hibbett Sports and DICK’S Sporting Goods: A Psychographic Analysis
Checking in With Discount & Dollar Stores
Peeking Behind The Curtain: Movie Theaters in 2023 and Beyond
Diving Into Brick-and-Mortar Eyewear
Getting Into Gear: Exploring The Auto Part Industry
Recapping Valentine’s Day 2024 Foot Traffic Trends
Fitness: A Strong Start to 2024
Dutch Bros. Continues To Percolate Visits
Super Bowl 2024: Placer.ai’s Postgame Foot Traffic Analysis
CAVA & sweetgreen Are On the Rise
Hats Off For Off-Price
Who Is Shopping at Malls?
Drilling Down Into Home Improvement
Walmart, Target, Costco & Superstore Space 2023 Recap
Catching Up With Shake Shack and Wingstop
Something To Chew On: Demographic Shifts at Steakhouse Chains
Placer.ai Office Index: Looking Back at 2023
Recapping RBI & Yum! Brands’ 2023 Foot Traffic Performance
Placer.ai White Paper Recap – January 2024
Who Shops at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters?
Three Taco Chains to Watch in 2024
Starbucks and Dunkin’: 2023 in Four Data Points
Who Visits CVS and Walgreens?
Fashionably Frugal: Apparel in 2023
Catching Up With Fast Food
The Grocery Sector in 2023: An End-of-Year Recap
3 Mall & Shopping Center Trends for 2024
Bakery Chains Rising To The Top
Placer.ai and Esri Partner to Deliver Geospatial Analytics
Tampa Tourism Trends
Going For The Green: The Changing Dynamics Of Country Clubs
Christmas Day Dining Recap
Major Urban Shopping Districts – Holiday Season Recap
Placer.ai Office Index: December 2023 Recap
Recapping the 2023 Holiday Shopping Season
Placer.ai White Paper Recap – December 2023
7 Retail & Dining Segments to Watch in 2024
Diving Into Holiday Season Favorites
Super Saturday and Christmas Eve Eve: A Winning Combination
3 Budget Grocery Chains Finishing 2023 On a High Note